Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Meaning of Food

I talk about Maya Angelou a lot.  She is an inspiration to me as a writer and as a person.  

Here is a link to an recent interview she did with Southern Living.  

She talks about how what we cook and how we eat says something about us.  She knows a lot about people and a lot about food.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it causes me to think of what I want my food to say to the people who eat it.  

What does it say when it is Four O'clock in the afternoon and I have no idea what is for dinner?  What does it say when my children eat quesadillas three days in a row because they are easy and quick?
What does it say that my husband says I only bake when I am taking something to someone else?

What does it say about our relationship when Maeve and I cook cheesecake together and then enjoy the results?  How does Hilde feel when I make a special vegetarian meal she loves rather microwaving beans for her while the rest of us are eating meat?  

How good does it feel to cook all day for people you love and then sit for hours around a table laughing?  (That is a communion like no other.)

Then there are the times when the food speaks actual memories to me.  We had roast beef a few weeks ago and I commented to Hilde that I could never be a vegetarian.  She asked, "Why not?"  I told her because every time I taste roast beef I think of grandpa and all the roast beef dinners I've had in my family.  I can see my dad standing in front of the cutting board slicing the roast and saving the juice.  One taste of salty, rare roast beef and images of family dinners flash through my head.   Then I feel loved.

Yes, they looked at me like I was crazy. 

But it is true.  Food is always connected to people or a place.  We don't call it Comfort Food for nothing.  It comforts us because of the memories associated with it.

So when I prepare Turkey, green been casserole, carrot souffle, pearl opinions, broccoli with cheese sauce, sweet potatoes and maybe even strawberry pretzel Salad.  I will be thinking of my family, my husband and my friends, with whom I have shared Thanksgivings.   

I will think of all the conversations, all the laughter and all the love that the food represents.   I will remind my children of all the people we have had at our table and say things like:

" Let's make Miss Shoshana's carrot souffle."  "Do you remember when the Allen's came to Thanksgiving?"  "If we save some turkey we can make grandpa's turkey soup."  "Dad makes the best pumpkin pie."

And we will ooh and ah as we recall the delicious food and we will be hit with pangs of sadness as we think of people far away.   We will make new friends and share in new Oklahoma traditions (probably involving football).  

Food, memories and friendship all entwined.

And I will be grateful for it all.     

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