While embarking upon this blog-journey, I knew I wanted to make it a place where I could share my knowledge on the many different subjects I am passionate about. When I began to brainstorm what my first posts would be, it was no surprise that many of them centered around food.
My love for food was born when I was young. As far back as I can remember I took the presence of a home cooked meal to be an expression of the deep, nurturing love. I am fortunate to have been able to experience this type of love from both my mother and father:
My mother cooked for me every night of the week when I was a child. There was often a whole chicken, stuffed with green apple, onion and celery, roasted to tender perfection, along with a side of steamed vegetables and potatoes. The flavors were so delicious and satisfying and nutritious. At school, I enjoyed thoughtfully packed lunches often containing my favorite snack, Apple Chips, which I was given in place of potato chips (and remain my favorite snack to this day). I always felt warmth swell within me when I went into the kitchen to make my plate, or opened my brown-bagged lunch. I felt loved in a way I would only recognize later, when I was able to reciprocate that very form of affection.
When I started college, my mother went back to school for her teaching credential in order to fulfill her lifelong dream of being an elementary school teacher. We both had busy schedules, and it was a fend-for-yourself environment in our kitchen. I cooked simple meals for myself and made heaping salads full of fresh vegetables for us both, but nothing fancy. Once I graduated, I got my first full-time job working as a nanny for a family with two school-aged girls. One of the requirements of the job was to follow the menu I was given for the week and have dinner on the table each night. Working as a nanny revealed to me the elation that comes from feeding the mouths of those I love and respect. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I had ever had. I began to go home and cook the recipes I made at work for my mother. Finally, returning the feeling of being taken care of back to her.
My parents lived in separate households for my entire life, which was okay with me. I never felt neglected by my father. He is the adventurous type, and since I was young, we have found our own rhythm and ways to connect regardless of the fact that he and my mother had been separated since I was an infant. When I was born he immediately learned to cook; being able to feed me healthy food was a priority for him. I will never forget the aroma of baked chicken breast with Italian dressing and onions bubbling at the bottom of a glass casserole dish, or the delicate sweetness of steamed cauliflower topped with a little butter and salt. Just like my experiences at home with my mom, when my father presented my plate at dinnertime, it wasn’t just my stomach that was full at the end of the meal…but my heart.
My father also got creative with helping me to enjoy foods I might not have been fond of. He initiated the “Clean Plate Club,” which is exactly what it sounds like: An exclusive club for those who dared to eat all their food at dinnertime. Since he never gave me portions that were gluttonous, I was often a member of this club, and it brought me great happiness every time he would say “clean plate club!” throwing his hand up in the air for a high-five. Many years later, I presented a menu for my father to choose from for his birthday, each containing three courses, all to be cooked by yours truly. To this day, that gift, the gift of food, is one he recalls with fondness time and time again. Having the opportunity to care for our parents in the ways they cared for us a children is a pleasure that life gives us with age. Even though I’m in my late twenties now, I still smile at my empty plate at the end of a meal and remember how fun eating has been, ever since I was a kid.
The relationship I began with food in my youth has carried seamlessly into adulthood. I’ve gone from honorary member of the clean plate club, to cooking as a form of romantic courtship. When my partner and I first started dating, I would send him home with leftovers from our dinner-at-home-dates so that he could have hearty food for lunch the next day. Darius later confessed that this is how he knew to take me seriously, because I cooked for him. Now we are a year into our relationship and we share a kitchen, a bed, and meal after home-cooked meal. He rarely takes lunch to work now that he is able to come home and eat during his lunch break, but I still find myself returning at the end of the day and asking, “What did you have for lunch today, babe?” Somehow, knowing what he ate for lunch makes me feel closer to him. Food and closeness, love and food; It really is all the same thing for me.