I arrived home to a nearly empty house, as my wife and most of my children ventured out on Friday evening in pursuit of a variety of activities. My one remaining daughter informed me that there was meatloaf and red skinned potatoes in the refrigerator.
Now, as a child I grew weary of everyday dinners like meatloaf, as this was a meal my cost-conscious mother often used to stretch the food budget. While I grudgingly ate most of the food placed in front of me (at least that which did not get smuggled to our Labrador retriever), I pined away for those meals that were the exclusive province of holidays or the rare visit to a restaurant.
Yet I have grown to appreciate the taste of a simple home-cooked meal, and I microwaved the still-warm leftovers. Though not much of a ketchup fan, I once learned working for a restaurant chain that this plain condiment adds a quite bit of zest to meatloaf.
As I ate this delicious-but-humble meal, I considered the meal choices I could have made instead. These ranged from fast food to a meal at an inexpensive diner, but these options lacked an important ingredient: home. Even though my only companions were my canine friends (plus a daughter watching television in another room), this unadorned meal easily surpassed any food I might have ordered at a restaurant, and the meal at home siphoned no additional cash from my wallet.
Best of all, I did not have to wait for a table, listen to screaming babies, hear an obnoxious person at the next table debating the virtues of video cards, or deal with an indifferent server. The lowly slice of meatloaf brought me a level of satisfaction far above its simple ingredients, a synergistic combination of food, atmosphere, and love.