Does food preparation at your house feel tender and nurturing or like a slog through wet cement? This holiday season I was struck by the distinction of food as fuel and food that deeply satisfies.
My daughter took hold of an avocado smashed it, added salsa, lime and salt. I couldn’t get enough. I warm my hands on the sides of a mug my son bought for me. A painted mandala welcomes me from under the orange tea water at the bottom of the mug as I take each sip. My children are now nurturing me in the kitchen.
But it wasn’t always this way. My daughter is a vegetarian and I remember her response to the gorgeous pile of vegetables I made, and then slathered them in ginger peanut sauce. “Yuck.” She didn’t take one bite. I felt unpeeled, and cooking became a chore.
My son simply threw away the food I cooked when my head was turned. I felt invisible.
Do you care if people eat the food you prepare?
The meals I make are altared spaces. I use my time layering a pan of lasagna noodles instead of buying one because my hands long to turn my time into love. But the cycle isn’t complete until someone swallows.
Years ago there were times I couldn’t get them to hold still for hugs. They drove away from me on yellow busses filled with their friends to new places.
My husband took trips to climb mountains and raft rivers. I blamed him for his insensitivity when I had made our home so nice.
I stayed home to cook and make pillows when my feet itched to be climbing mountains because I felt anxious until we were all united at one table. I was frustrated with these family members who weren’t cooking up a life according to the recipe I had written on my card, “How to make a family.” Step one, eat together in harmony. Step two, go outside and have adventures.
My husband’s timetable for how our life as a family unfolded was different than mine. His bookshelf was full of guidebooks, not cookbooks. There were years I vacationed with the kids while he was off climbing mountains. Sometimes I was lonely. Sometimes I felt powerfully independent.
I remember one of the times I camped alone with my kids. My son was very young and still learning to ride a bike. My daughter was scooting back and forth, ably on her bike while I was holding the seat and running with my son. He was wobbling, back and forth, and I was getting out of breath trying to stay with him, just barely hanging on. My daughter was now out of sight. Fear gripped me momentarily when I couldn’t see her. But then, within a minute she turned around and I could see that all was well.
This is how it went, these surges of wobbling, terror, and a burst of thrill as my children would express their joy at the sight of puzzle grass or a turkey feather, found stray in the path.
My children have hovered under our roof these recent weeks saying “Yum!” at multiple things on the kitchen island. This year for three days before Christmas, my husband was at my side, as I baked cookies and cinnamon rolls. “I love the way you roll out that pasta dough,” he marveled and sent off pictures to his father. He made half the meals and kept asking me, “What can I do to help?”
Three times he said to me, “Thank you for making our home so beautiful.” Is our home more lovely this year? Or have we simply ascended to the summit?
I hung around home for decades because, more than I wanted a get-away-beach, I wanted a family. When I began this quest, however, I didn’t realize families come wrapped in yucks, garbage cans and lonely feelings just as much as they come packaged in cinnamon rolls and sleeping bags.
My kids and my husband were telling me what they wanted.
My kids felt safe at our house to say “yuck,” and they never voiced that sentiment when we went other places. My husband needed to take trips to satiate that taste for adventure, but always wanted to come home. Home to the life I was busy building for us: our family.
My family, my husband, my daughter and my son, wanted to be in this house for Christmas. And my kids kept saying yum. My husband wanted to be here every minute, making potatoes, chopping onions. Wrapping presents, or at least sitting with me while I wrapped presents. He and I watched It’s a Wonderful Life and he rubbed my back while I folded laundry.
I find it ironic that now I am planning for the rivers to raft, and the mountains to climb. Is it this keen sense of family, even now, when my chicks have flown the coop that allows me to spread my own wings?
Interested in feeding your family? Check out our matching hats. Chris Tidd Headpieces made them for us and he did a phenomenal job helping me celebrate the individuality of each of my family members while, simultaneously, uniting us at the table by repeating our family theme of four in all of our hats.
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