Sunday, March 11, 2007

Food is Love

I don't know about your families, but in mine, food is love.

It's not that we don't tell each other we love each other - we do. But food, food is concrete proof.

When I was growing up, we'd go to my grandmother's house in the summer, and she'd have baked five different kinds of cookies for us. The fridge would be full of things we liked. She was kind and everything she did was incredibly loving. But something about all the baking beforehand really hit home. It was proof. We were in her mind when we weren't there. She was excited we were coming. She thought about what we liked, and she worked to make it for us. And offered it to us beaming, so glad we were finally there for our visit.

I bake for people I love. I can't cook, but I do make kick ass brownies, if I may say so myself. They used to be my friend Maude's staple request when she was sad.

Even now, when my dad wants to get my mom to make him something, he'll say, "Back when your mother really loved me, she used to make Minnesota hot dish/rice pudding/the most wonderful chocolate cake." (Or whatever it might be he was missing.) It's unfair in a Catholic guilt trip kind of way, actually, but it really works. She'll go ahead and make it. To prove, in whatever silly cake kind of way, she still loves him. He knows full well she loves him. But he likes this proof.

My brother always used to have very specific food requests when coming home for a visit. A taste for something our mom used to make. Or five different things she used to make. And she'd make them all. So happy to feed him. Nostalgia. And proof of love.

Being fairly food/body image obsessed, I never had food requests when I came home. Because I was always trying so hard not to eat. And so the food is love, and "we cooked this because we love you" caused me a great deal of anxiety. I resented it. But now that I am (almost entirely) past that I can appreciate it.

So today I spent a good part of the day with my parents as I often do on weekends.

And no matter how often I'm there, they send me home with food. This doesn't mean they thrust a roast chicken into my arms or send me off with a casserole. But, for example, my dad got three extra boxes of this Kashi cereal I love for me to take with me. My mom is constantly sticking food in my bag. She'll sneak in some oranges or apples. Slip in some cookies. See me off at the door with a jar of garlic pickle from the Indian store.

The other day I took fresh baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Yum. Today I came home laden with oranges, apples, plums, and grapes. They just had too many. I had to take them. They would go to waste if I didn't take them.

It's love. It is.


  1. You are so right. Food is love. Roast and roated vegetables for the eldest, chocolate chip cookies for the boy, cake for the baby and chicken marsala for the honey.

    And when we visit my parents, my dad always makes homemade ice cream.

    Mmmmmm..brownies. If one has to be good at baking or cooking, I'd choose baking everytime.

    This is just like eating before bedtime without the calories!

  2. This makes me want to visit my parents... My mom makes extra (Indian) food about half the time she cooks and freezes it, so when anyone visits she can send them off with a bunch of food that will keep well and taste awesome.

    Of course she makes our favorites when we visit too, and sends us off with those as well.

    mmmm... mom's home cooking.

    Now my mouth is watering. :-\

  3. I can't help but wonder if it's the food itself or the comfort of the specific food previously shared with loved ones that is so important. My mom used to make the best orange rolls and eggs goldenrod for Easter Sunday. She did it out of love, and I'll always associate them with her. But is it the food I love so much? Or does the food remind me of all the wonderful Easters we spent together, talking, sharing, being a family?

    I guess if your dad buys you your favorite cereal it's really love, because you could buy it yourself. But is it the brownies themselves that your friend loves? Or is it your affection?

  4. Food is love in my family, too. My Gramma will be 100 in May and makes fresh cookies anytime her children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren visit. Cookies and milk in Gramma's kitchen are one of my most precious memories!

    That's so sweet your Dad bought cereal for you and your Mom loads you up with fruit!

  5. I don't remember who said this, and while it may not apply to your parents, it certainly holds true for the men I've impressed with my cooking.

    "Food is love on this landscape, and love is sex, and sex is connection, and connection is food; appetites exist in a full circle, or in a sonata where eating and touching and making love and feeling close are all distinct chords that nonetheless meld with and complement one another."

  6. Are you saying Lisa's dad wants to have sex with her because she likes cereal? That's just wrong.

  7. DCup - yum - all those things you listed sound so good! And you worry people will think you're not a good mom!

    VVK - oh, I'm envious! I love home cooked Indian food!

    2x4 - I think that's exactly it - the food represents those moments and the feelings of being close to family. And there's something particular about food and nurturing.

    HKW - you're so lucky to still have your gramma! 100! And still making cookies! That's awesome!

    G&D - thanks for the quote! I think there is something very powerful about cooking a meal for someone you're romantically involved with. Food can be so sensual. But of course, isn't always, which leads us back to 2x4.... Aghh! Yikes! That's just so very wrong!

  8. Dear 2x4 - Read the entire comment, ok?


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