“Love people. Cook them tasty food.”
This bumper sticker pops up on a regular basis in my world. It speaks to me powerfully from my past, my present and our future.
One memory all of my six kids share is of me in the kitchen. When they were little the first place they’d look for me when they woke from a nap, or got up in the morning, was the kitchen. Later they’d get off the school bus knowing brownies or chocolate cake would be waiting for them for a snack. The aroma greeted them before they’d even opened the front door. They remember helping make homemade pasta and the noodles drying over dowel rods in the flour dusted kitchen. After I became a single mother my creative energies went elsewhere and the quality of the cooking, if I do say so myself, went downhill. I did teach the kids basics like grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate buttercream frosting (for graham crackers, of course) and they managed to survive. I felt bad about the changes in the cooking arrangements but I’m touched that even the youngest, who was five at the time, remembers the “old days” of mom in the kitchen. Cooking, typically on a very tight budget, was a creative outlet for me. It was also a way for me to let the kids know that someone was home for them…a primal “hearth & home fires” kind of atmosphere that I believe has enriched the people they’ve become.
The sharing of food is so primal. So basic. Sometimes practices like this can say “I love you” when words fail. In 2006, after my father began radiation treatments following his surgery for anaplastic thyroid cancer, I spent a week visiting my parents. I wanted to come in and fix everything. What I ended up doing was cooking all my dad’s favorite foods. He made the effort to eat, despite his growing discomfort, because I’d cooked for him. I remember privately feeling as though I was wasting time, doing nothing, and yet some part of me deep inside knew that this was exactly what I was meant to do on this trip.
It ended up being the last time my father was really able to eat.
Sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the most profoundly meaningful and the easiest to overlook. The memory of being able to say “I love you” to my dad during that week in the only way he could accept at the time has stayed with me ever since.
Somehow, I found saying “I love you” to myself by feeding myself tasty, good food much harder to do. This year I’ve made some serious changes in my relationship with food and have felt a resurgence of that creativity I used to feel cooking for my kids. I’m avoiding gluten and refined sugar now- and fortunately there are a LOT of recipes out there that cater to restricted diets. It’s all too good not to share, though, and difficult to do for one alone. So I’m starting to return to my love of sharing my creative outlet with others.
The sharing of food can be a way to establish a relationship between people who are unable to relate or communicate in other ways. Sharing food around a common table, sharing each other’s customs and stories around food, can be a way of opening safe space. The seeds of conflict resolution and of more fruitful lives can start over shared meals.
Love people. Cook them tasty food.
The food pictured here is gluten free and refined sugar free. Links to the recipe pages may be found here:
(© Karen Opp. All rights reserved.)