Let’s face it, we all have at least one (at least!!!!) co-dependent relationship in our lives—that is, our relationship with FOOD (glorious food!) For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, food is our lifelong companion. Food is the one we can turn to on a daily basis to get our needs met.
Some of us adore food…but that adoration can verge on obsession. Some of us fear food…but manage cautiously to maintain a healthy truce. Many of us have a classic love/hate relationship with food…it is what we turn to in both joy and anger.
But all of us NEED food. And that is why it is one of the most important relationships we have try to “get right”; relating as neither servant nor master but rather learning to be a grateful and responsible consumer. Hoo-boy.
I have had my struggles with food, as many people do, and certainly spent a chunk of my life viewing it as enemy instead of nourishing sustainer. But an equal and opposite truth is that food is an important part of many of my most treasured and entrenched memories. I don’t believe there will ever be a day when the smell of roast turkey does not bring me back to Thanksgiving with my grandparents when I was growing up.
Truthfully, when I think of places I’ve been and people I know, I almost reflexively match them up instantly with some food. Our next door neighbor when I was a child baked the most sublime snickerdoodles. My paternal grandmother had a knack for homemade stuffing that has been unparalleled in my experience. We don’t refer to my friend Tad as “the barbequetioner” for nothin’. Food that is served with love is always a gift.
When my family used to travel together, our standard joke was that we were on a mission to “stamp out hunger in our time.” Namely, OUR hunger. We are the kind of clan that could easily on a good day (for us) cause an all-you-can-eat-buffet to operate at a loss (bad day for them). Not just because we can pack it away, either—also because we know what the good stuff is and don’t fill up on bread, so to speak. When I think of our trips, I inevitably conjure memories of not only what we did, but what we ate.
All of the holidays recollect happy food memories for me; homemade Chex mix and cheese logs rolled in nuts at Christmas…popcorn balls and candy apples at Halloween…pumpkin pie and whipped squash at Thanksgiving. I will forever associate kielbasa with Fourth of July (???) because of the year the neighborhood kids tried it for the very first time at our picnic and wiped out virtually a lifetime supply. Easter always makes me crave white chocolate, as I was the only kid in the family who liked it and somehow the Easter Bunny knew this and filled my basket generously.
And every family has treasured and guarded “secret recipes” that become interwoven in their lore. For example, my mother made these melt-in-your-mouth rum ball cookies around the holidays, but our favorite year was when my teenage sister and her BF took over baking duties and made us a batch so potent they could have easily spawned a DUI charge. Even more infamously, those recipes that were SO secret they have been lost to the annals of nostalgia, never to be recreated again.
We all have traditions surrounding food as well…every October my son and I trek to B.F. Clyde’s Cider Mill in Mystic CT for fresh pressed cider and cider donuts. There is a cheese store that we visit religiously every summer while at my Grandparents’ old camp on Lake Ontario. And yes, I drag my husband and son to the same restaurant every year for my birthday celebration…I think it slows the aging process somehow. Ha.
We relate to food with all of our senses, not just taste. Smell is a powerful time machine, as I mentioned, but there is also the visual—my father had a friend who said before every meal, “First, we enjoy with our eyes.” And then the tactile, the different textures on our tongue and in our hands as we knead our dough or prepare a salad. Even sound enters into it; a teakettle whistling, a steak sizzling on the grill, popcorn bursting into being in the hot pan of oil.
This month Shareen and I asked you to share your thoughts and memories about food, and what a wonderful and eclectic group of tapas you submitted! We will be serving some tempting appetizers, hearty meals and delicious desserts, and we hope you join us at the table for these meals. Bon Appetit!