I believe in the healing power of food. There is a unity and universality that makes food—its preparation, consummation and enjoyment—so valued and ritualized throughout the world. Its ability to bring together people of all size, age and color to enjoy one unified activity, to share in the comforts of each other, and to dive into delicious delicacies, forgetting for a moment life’s unrelenting difficulties.
Take for example, my grandmother’s famous cheesy potatoes. This is one dish that brings family members together; young, old, near, far, big, small and new. Even though my grandmother doesn’t indulge in the delectable dish herself, she slaves for the enjoyment of others, for the first smile on everyone’s faces when the cover is taken off of the simmering pan.
My grandmother showed her love through food in so many ways; a simple sack lunch is all that was needed to give security and comfort. My favorite memory of food begins again with my grandmother just after my parent’s separation when I was three; their hatred for each other would span for miles and years and continuing to this day. We lived with my grandparents for three years after the divorce, and my mother started working two jobs to support us. The late night ritual began here; just after the rambunctious group of Cheers friends would go home to their beds, my grandmother and I would creep our way into the comforts of the neighboring kitchen. My grandfather was a consolidated freight way truck driver before his retirement about 10 years ago. He would not have the time to stop for lunch but instead enjoyed the simplicities of a daily brown sack meal which my grandmother and I prepared. These evenings with my grandmother were spent in this simple ritual, ensuring our loved grandfather and husband gained the necessary strength to overcome any of the road’s many obstacles. Bologna sandwiches were always the delicacy he enjoyed. I would sit on the counter in my Rainbow Bright night gown focusing on the tools and techniques my grandmother used to create his meal. When everything was finished and just before she placed the bologna sandwich in a plastic bag, I would take a bite out of one of its corners. Before I awoke the next morning my grandfather was off to work carrying in his arm the bologna sandwich. Everyday he would return home and never address me; he would instead look at grandma and say, “well, grandma, I don’t know how it keeps happening but that darn mouse took a bite out of my sandwich again!” We would all smile then and he would rush over and grab me giving me all the kisses and hugs physically possible to express his love. Everyday my grandfather had the love of his family in that brown sack. With that one little bite of a bologna sandwich he knew that he always had love and comfort to come home to, too.
An act of selfless love and self sacrifice is the main focus in cooking and consuming food. It; heals wounds brings, loved ones together, and conquers a distance, time and loneliness. The kitchen brings people together and helps in creatively unifying a world of separated individuals. This simple memory gives me strength everyday; I know and understand my families love for one another. I can not wait to continue the ritual of preparing, consuming and enjoying food to my current and future family in the years to come. Always remember foods power to comfort life’s unrelenting difficulties and bring together loved ones in the face of a divided world.
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