How Eating Does More Than Just Fill Your Belly – Food & Family Traditions

Last night we had a little dinner for Amelia’s birthday. I kept with the lasagna tradition again this year, and it was great. My in-laws and family always comment on how much food I serve, and how it interferes with their diet regimes. It always makes me laugh. No matter how hard I try, I am unable to serve the correct amount of food for the number of people I’m serving. If I’m supposed to serve 19 people (like last night) I will undoubtedly make enough to feed 30. I can’t help myself. It made me start thinking about how important food is to me. It’s probably one of the things I’m most passionate about. I’m not talking about gorging on McDonald’s burgers, but filling myself and the people I love with great food. For me, food is the ultimate comfort. A great meal with all the fixings is how I show people I care for them, it’s also how I create memories. I love cooking for many reasons. I love it because it allows me to express my creativity and feel accomplishment. As a child we had many traditions that were based on food. Events were always celebrated with certain meals. My mother’s food was one thing that always made me happy. Although many of her recipes are very simple, they became the backbone of all of my childhood memories. These memories flood back to me when I make certain foods. For instance, my Grandmother always made a frozen yogurt pie in the summer with berries from my Aunt’s farm. It reminds me of the summer, of the cottage we had when I was a kid. It reminds me of my Grandma. Now, I make it for my kids. They love it because it tastes like heaven. I love it because it tastes like my childhood. One day, when they are old like me, they will make it and think of their childhood. I think that’s really important.

As my kids grow up, I want them to have the same love of food that I have. I want them to understand how important it is to celebrate life with great food and drink. I also want to teach them how to cook, instead of pouring instant pre-packaged food into a pot to be warmed. I believe in that. So many kids I know can’t cook for themselves. I find this really sad. I remember cooking with my Father and Mother from a very young age. My Dad always made everything from scratch. I don’t even remember a time when we had caesar salad dressing from a jar. It always came from the food processor. Many of the staples of our diet now come from recipes I watched my Father make. He never poured over a cookbook. He just made food. He went to his happy place, and poured himself into whatever he was making. I cannot remember my Father and I ever having any conversations about anything of importance. In fact, the only conversations we ever had were about food. As I left from the last meal he made for us, he and I discussed making soup. As I was walking out the door, he didn’t say goodbye or nice to see you, he said “make sure you roast the garlic first.” It made me laugh, because after all those years, I still had no understanding of him. Until now. He wasn’t emotionally available to us kids like he probably should have been. As I get older, I realize that he did the best he could, and on some level, I can appreciate that. He showed us he cared by fussing over our food. He poured his love into that food, and fed it to us. It’s the only way he knew how. I finally get it.

Now that I’m an adult, I see that I’ve inherited many of my father’s personality traits. I am hot-tempered, and extremely passionate about the things I believe in. I also love food. I will always be the girl who sings while she’s making salad, and raves about her own delicious achievements. Food is powerful stuff. I can’t imagine celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or random Sunday family dinner without massive amounts of love-filled food. I hope that one day my kids will be making the same bruschetta that my Dad taught me to make. That one day they will sit around a table with their own family, sharing the recipes that they watched me make throughout their childhood. Hopefully I’ll be around to join them. After all, someone will have to remind them that they have to grind salt into the garlic before they added it to the tomatoes. πŸ™‚

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Leftovers from last night: Arancini, bruschetta and my very first attempt at making my own bread.Β 

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4 thoughts on “How Eating Does More Than Just Fill Your Belly – Food & Family Traditions

  1. This was lovely, Kath. Your passion and also your insight into your dad are beautiful. Just reading this brought out the Mediterranean in me, and reminds me of how we lingered over our meal last night, something I LOVE doing: sitting around the table, talking, eating such good food that you never stop uttering various mews of appreciation, taking long and feeling content.

    I want you to make me one of your meals sometimes. I dislike cooking. I adore being cooked for. πŸ™‚

    • You’re a friend who gets it. I remember eating a cheese plate together and both of us just about dying from the pleasure of it. Meals like that are the greatest gift this world has to offer. Food for the soul really. I also remember talking about our childhood while we ate, and comparing our upbringing. Listening to you tell me about how your family always celebrated feast days for the saints, and how your mom made certain foods. Was it macaroni baked in pastry? Honestly…I would die for that! πŸ™‚ It’s those meals that will always stick with you because they are saturated in feelings of love, acceptance and happiness. A true blessing. I was reading a book on the holocaust and as I read descriptions of the characters missing the bread their father would make for them, I started crying. The holocaust was horrific on all levels, but for me, the fact that these survivors (the made up ones in the book) longed for particular soul-soothing foods they once knew, really had an impact on me. It’s true. Food feeds every aspect of our beings. It is everything to us, and when we start replacing our meals with fast, preservative and chemical-laden processed foods, we lose a very important part of our lives.

      Clearly I’ve spent too much time thinking about food today. πŸ™‚ I will cook for you anytime. You and I can sit for hours eating amazing cheeses and fresh bread, olives… Oh man…

      • I would be in HEAVEN. And coincidentally, I was just telling Colin about that cheese platter and our time at Linguine’s when we got to order whatever we wanted. You had fish with this lemon sauce that I would have licked off your plate, even though I’m vegetarian. I also always fondly remember the food I put out for your baby shower before Natalie was born. What a great day! My favourite section in Eat Pray Love was Italy – the eat section. πŸ™‚

        If we ever go to Sicily together, we’ll have to roll each other around the country.

        PS. Have you read The Table Comes First: France, Family, and the Meaning of Food? Adam Gopnik.

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