“What Comes From The Heart, Goes To The Heart“. This is one of my favorite quotes. It comes from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an mid-18th century English poet, romantic and literary philosopher.
In nine simple words it conveys how our best relationships will be touched by a circular connection that is at once intangibly romantic and simultaneously grounded by a positive attitude about how the relationship should be respected, understood, and governed. It signals there is something special and compassionate between and among the people in a relationship, because it explicitly implies those in the relationship have agreed they are better off together and in the relationship, than they would be apart from it.
It’s amazing how such a short phrase can so clearly message how we should behave and act towards each other to protect, nurture and grow a relationship.
Here’s a personal story that exemplifies “what comes from the heart, goes to the heart”.
Garlicky Stuffed Bluefish Drenched In White Wine.
When my daughter was about 7 and my son about 5, we lived in Westport, CT where bluefish was inexpensive and available all year-long. My kids have never been fussy eaters and they loved bluefish, even though it’s a dark, oily, ‘fishy’ tasting fish. While Kathy normally prepared it, I volunteered to do it this one night because she had been busy with the kids that day.
At the time, I was still a rookie cook learning the boundaries of reasonable variation from a recipe. I remember thinking that if 2 cloves of garlic were good in the recipe, 6 cloves would be even better. I love garlic. I also substituted white wine for the fish stock to moisten the stuffing. I assumed this variation would ‘cut’ the oil in the fish, making it sweeter and less fishy tasting. Funny how at the time those sounded like such great ideas, yet today I would think they were about the dumbest ideas ever.
When the fish came out of the oven, I opened the packet. I remember thinking it smelled a little more garlicky than I had expected, but it looked great and the fish was cooked perfectly. I placed a portion of the fish and vegetables on four plates, called everyone to the table and proudly served our favorite family dinner. I remember wondering if anyone would notice the strong aroma of garlic in the kitchen.
Kathy came into the kitchen and immediately turned the exhaust fan on. That was the first sign of a problem.
We all sat down and began to eat. When I took my first taste, I was immediately disappointed because it was nowhere near as good as Kathy’s. The stuffing was soggy, reeked of raw garlic, and the wine had overpowered the entire dish. All I could taste was the acidity in the wine and a double kick of rawness from the garlic. Of course, I was too proud to admit we had a disaster on the table [remember, I’m Italian], and assumed the peanut gallery would start chirping at any moment. Bewildering as it was, Kathy and the kids were quietly eating what had to be the worst thing ever served in our home. But I caught Kathy nodding her head a couple of times to the kids, as if saying: “Don’t say anything! Not a word.”
Kathy knew how sensitive I was about my evolving cooking skills, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t want this total failure to discourage me. She also knew I had prepared the fish “from the heart” because I was trying to give her a break that day. So she was simultaneously suffering through the meal, and silently managing the kids reaction to this awful meal, mainly to protect me from embarrassment and heckling from the kids.
I knew something was ‘fishy’ (pun intended) when Kathy and my daughter began having a discussion about school, which was not in session at the time. I was just about to admit failure and suggest it wasn’t too late to call in Chinese, when all of a sudden, my innocent and totally honest 5-year-old son blurted out, “Mom, I think Daddy’s fish is not feeling good. Should we take it to the hospital?”
Well, that unleashed the dog from the chain, and all of us began laughing uncontrollably. And the comments began fly. “Dad, this is the worst fish we’ve ever had! This stuffing is awful. What did you do?” came from my daughter. My son was sticking to his assessment that the fish was sick and needed a doctor, which made us laugh all the more! Apparently, Kathy’s silent management of my son hadn’t worked so well, and his ‘from the heart’ innocence had called me out as only a 5-year-old can. And of course he was right, the fish needed emergency transport to the garbage disposal.
Anyway, we ended up having breakfast for dinner that night—cereal, fruit and milk. And we laughed and joked about Daddy’s cooking disaster and my son’s hospital comment at every meal that week. To this day, when one of my cooking efforts goes sideways, the family always tells me nothing will ever be as bad as that Garlicky Stuffed Bluefish Drenched in White Wine back in Westport, CT. And my son asks if we should call the hospital. Some quotes never go away in a family.
When I got up from the table that evening, I remember apologizing to Kathy and the kids for the spoiled fish dinner, and promised to make it up to them the next weekend. I’ll never forget what Kathy said: “Honey, I loved your fish tonight because it came from your heart, and anything coming from your heart tastes good to me.” Nevertheless, I was crestfallen by the colossal failure of my attempt to cook our family’s favorite dinner.
Later that night, I made my rounds to say good night to the kids. They had obviously talked with their mother before going to their rooms. When I reached down to kiss them, they both wrapped their little arms around my neck and told me my cooking wasn’t perfect yet, but I was already a perfect Dad. And they made me promise to be careful with the garlic and wine in the future!!
As I’ve grown older, I’ve thought about that night many times. Life is full of imperfectly executed recipes because people are not perfect. I’ve messed up several dinners over the years, and as a human being, I have several flaws just like everyone else. But what I’ve learned over the years is that learning to accept each other’s faults – and choosing to celebrate our differences and flaws—is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.
In the context of this blog, you may assume I am trying to set a good example for you. Therefore, I will urge you to say and do only things that are intended to cause a positive and compassionate reaction from the people around you. I will try to not suggest acts that could be interpreted as emanating from self -interest or hurtful sentiments. I will also assume you will be all about creating the confidence that you will consistently behave that way as often as possible. I will not be perfect in any of this, but I will try hard to achieve improvement on the journey.
“What comes from the heart, goes to the heart”. What this quote says most to me is that no matter what you do or say, the special people in your life will gracefully forgive your mistakes and miscues as long as they come from your heart, with an intention to please and from a caring attitude. If you can remember this quote and live it, I guarantee you will have long-lasting, loving, caring and respectful relationships.