Some years ago, I was having a conversation with my friend, Jenny. We were comparing our concerns and To-Do Lists when she noted, “Boy. You really have a lot on your plate!” To which I quickly replied, “Yes, but it’s not mine, and I’m being force-fed!”

Humanity is in the business of catering, but sometimes we overload ourselves. Do you ever feel that you’re carrying too much on your plate? I’m not talking about stacking spinners five plates high… all that does is turn you into a circus act. I’m talking about adding more to your one plate than what you can [should] healthily manage.

We’re all trained caterers in life. From a very early age, we learn to make other people happy, to be selfless and give more. We give our time, money, attention, emotions, and sometimes, parts of ourselves that we shouldn’t give away. It’s very fulfilling to help others. And sometimes that means taking things off their plate.

But what happens when others take advantage of that? Skooch those veggies over, time to make room for someone else’s share. They heap it on; more on your plate, less on theirs. And when word gets out that you’re a polite eater, the next thing you know, you’re eating three kinds of pie with homemade whipped cream, and you can’t even see the roast beef that you selected.

Catering to others is a good business, but like all businesses, you have to have a plan for success, or else you’ll sink.

It’s not selfish to say no to those extra sweets that just pack on the pounds. These are the people who talk so nicely to you and sugar you up, just to get what they want. The ones who manipulate you into thinking it’s all good, when deep down inside you know too much of a good thing is… just too much.

I personally don’t like beets. Beets are those bitter bleeders that seep and discolor the other food on your plate. I can manage them in tiny doses, but any more than that and … no thank you. Funny how they usually appear around the holidays. Beet People are those who slowly take over and bring their brand of flavoring to other foods. It’s always all about them. Those creamy mashed potatoes and gravy? A tad red now, a tad sharp.

Then there’s the Salad People. These are the people who know how to maintain a very healthy lifestyle and aren’t afraid of telling you what you’re doing wrong. The more sweets and carbs you load up on, the more green they dish out. Full of advice and fiber. Just stop the bad eats, and have a leaf. You’ll be fine. They do it. So can you. Unless you’re allergic to their brand of dressing. Unless you want more in your life than just rabbit food. Unless you want to eat the not-so-good-for-you stuff, just once in a while.

My favorite dish is the Meat and Potatoes. You know, the main course. These are the people who add sustenance to life. Sometimes it’s not quite flavored the way we hope, but add a dash of this and a pinch of that, and soon enough, it’s delicious. The reason we’re all here. Main Course people are your family, your best friends. The ones who are just comforting to have around and who help nourish you even when you don’t realize it.

Spices are those little extra touches in life. Salt for seasoning and preservation. Pepper for attention. Some flavors mix well, some don’t. Some you can take in large amounts, others notsomuch. Spices are anything, or anyone, in life. People. Money. Jobs. Entertainment. Distractions. Hopes. Dreams. Fears.

The funny thing is, I’ve never seen anyone use every single spice all at the same time. And some spices just don’t belong on certain foods. You wouldn’t pepper a pound cake, would you? Or dip an ice cream cone in gravy? I think not.

Being in the catering business means knowing what flavors blend, and what ones don’t. It means knowing proportions are just as important as presentation. You can’t serve an entire menu on one plate, or even at one function. We are all called to help each other, to cater to each other’s needs.

It’s okay to add seasonings and sustenance, and to enjoy their offerings as well. In fact, we’re called together in this potluck of life, to share and celebrate. To try new flavors, new foods. But that doesn’t mean ignoring our own needs for their sake.

It’s important to know that it’s also okay to say no. It’s okay to say, “This is my plate, and this is what I need,” or even “I’m allergic.” And when others start to heave their helpings upon you, it’s okay to say, “No thanks, I’ve had enough.” You know what you can take and what you can’t.

So sometimes you just have to set the big plate down and reach for dessert: that finishing touch that just sets things right. I’ll take the tiramisu over there, please. And a coffee. Thanks.

My date with Bocelli.

I'll Fly Away
Comment Commentary: August 28, 2011
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