Our kitchens and the kitchens we came from seem to have a universal pull on us. Good food, deep love, and hearty laughter become the tastes of heaven for the hungry souls gathered ’round our tables.
Food is perhaps the most commonly used metaphor that God uses to tell us something meaningful and eternal. From forbidden fruit to manna, to loaves and fishes, to bread and wine … we could follow the thread of God’s Unfolding Story by going from food to food, drink to drink, meal to meal in passage after passage of the Bible.
Maybe that’s why there are so many hidden layers of meaning when we stir a pot of Mama’s chili or cut into a ripe red watermelon and find our minds transported to picnics in the hot, verdant summers of childhood. Cooking engages every sense: the taste of homemade peach ice cream, the smell of sweet corn, the sounds of steak sizzling on the grill, the hard, smooth feel of a good crisp apple in the hand, the arresting beauty of fresh garden veggies artfully arranged on the lopsided ceramic plate you made at age nine. Unlike anything else, food sears itself into our memories.
This is why, when we feed others, we nourish them in a myriad of surprising and memorable ways. You never know what gooey grilled-cheese sandwich or steaming bowl of basil-tomato soup will become a comforting memory forever sealed in the heart of someone you love. “I may write about the smell of asparagus, the color of polenta, or the taste of figs still warm from the sun,” Paula Butturini writes in Keeping the Feast, “but all of it is a personal shorthand for weighing love and hunger, health and nourishment, secrets and revelations, illness and survival, comfort and celebration, and perhaps most of all, the joy and gift of being alive.” Indeed. Food is all this and more.
Besides the fun of the food itself, cooks share a jovial companionship in the kitchen. Laughing, chatting, and cooking with one another, preparing a good meal for our family and friends, is one of the ways we, as mother and daughter, bond best. In spite of our quirks, somehow in the kitchen … it works. And if it doesn’t work, it’s usually funny. Then it becomes a story. And the story becomes a memory, and that bonds us too. Then we write it down and share it with others, as we’ve tried to do in this book.
So ultimately, it is all good.
Excerpt from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook: A Mom andDaughter Dish About the Food that Delights Them and the Love that Binds Them by Becky Johnson and Rachel Randolph. Used with permission.