A Full Embrace

A Much Needed Break

My family and I took a break from our busy lives yesterday, starting the day at Crescent Beach, FL.  It was my 10-month-old son’s first trip to the beach, a new experience full of wonder and excitement with new sights, sounds, smells, and tastes (like sand, shells, and salt water).  It was a day of firsts for me as well…my first post-40 trip to the beach…my first trip to the beach with teenage daughters.  I’m realizing more and more every day that my daughters are not the little girls they once were (“Cool it, fella’s!  They can date when they’re 30.”).

My son charged the ocean repeatedly, crawling as fast as he could headlong into incoming surf and bracing for the rush of cold water followed by the ripping away of the sand beneath him.  He eagerly sifted through the shifting sand for hidden seashells which he immediately tasted upon finding.  His is a hunger for life and fullness of experience that is often lost amidst the burdens of mid-life.  I quickly found the sun too hot, the water too cold, and the shepherding too tiring.  I was contemplating begging for a spot under a neighboring tent to curl up and take a nap when we collectively decided to escape the beach and retreat to the nearby city of St. Augustine for some food and shade.

I’ll Have What She’s Having

It was there that we found the Columbia Restaurant.  Touted as the oldest restaurant in Florida, it was founded in 1905 (originally in Tampa’s Ybor City) by Cuban immigrant, Casimiro Hernandez, Sr. and has remained in the family ever since.  Great dining experiences are something I can embrace these days far more than a day at the beach, and Columbia Restaurant delivered exactly that.  Our waitress delivered history of the restaurant and the food throughout the event as if she were more tour guide than waitress (though she was commendably skilled at both).  As it was lunchtime, we intended to eat light, so my wife ordered a Cuban half-sandwich with a salad, and I ordered the same…well…almost.  I was picturing the typical side-salad I’ve encountered at many restaurants that I find less than inspirational, and I cast my lot with the black bean soup instead.

When the waitress arrived with our meals, the tray she was carrying included a strikingly ornate serving bowl in which she constructed and tossed the salad while providing an intriguing history including that it was one of the first three items offered by the restaurant (accompanied by the Cuban sandwich and hand-rolled cigars), that it has been featured on the Today Show, and that it continues to be one of their most popular menu items.  The salad looked incredible as she heaped it on my wife’s plate before turning to me and saying, “Oh yes, and I believe you ordered the black bean soup.”  I was crestfallen.  Of course, after such an introduction, I had to try the salad…and so I did.  This was a salad like no other, and I was ashamed to have dismissed it based solely on assumptions.  Not to be left out of the spotlight, the Cuban sandwich and the black bean soup were better than I’ve had anywhere else…albeit delivered with less pomp.

Keep It In Balance

I’ve mentioned previously that I believe sustainable health is found in fullness and balance.  Grab on to what is whole, organic (not necessarily in the commercial sense), and real.  If you have a chance to have an enjoyable dining experience, do it.  Don’t be gluttonous (that won’t make you feel good), but leave the food scales and calorie counters behind.  Even if you could sustain a lifestyle of excessive limitation, what might you gain beyond a few extra years (maybe) of life that you haven’t really lived.  Don’t put too much stock in what the latest research says will kill you.  It will change next week, and before too long, they’ll have you eating sand and shells…

5 thoughts on “A Full Embrace

  1. I struggle with this one. With 4 small kids, we rarely go out to eat. So when we do, I want to order everything on the menu. I often eat too much, then feel yucky. And guilty.


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