Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Food is Love

I grew up in a family where food was love. Food was an important means by which we showed each other that we cared.

My paternal grandmother died when I was six. She was a short round Eastern European woman who loved to cook. The family gathered at her house for huge delectable holiday meals. There were always two or three kinds of pie. Her small, old fashioned kitchen would be full of aunts and cousins, cooking, arranging serving platters, laughing, and competing to have a turn washing dishes. In addition to these regular family dinners, Mom (along with us kids) would drop in to visit Grandma every Friday afternoon after doing the weekly grocery shopping. Grandma would bring out plates of cookies and squares, which were always delectable. "Eat! Eat! Have another cookie. Try one of these date squares." After a Friday afternoon at Grandma's house, we were sure not to have much of an appetite left for supper, which frustrated my Dad.

When I was a child, our family always sat down and ate together. My Mom was a good cook, and she strived to prepare meals that were both healthy and appealing. She also froze and canned fruits and vegetables from our big garden, and was especially well known for her jams and jellies, which she continues to make to this day. My Dad was a committed gardener, and as well as raising vegetables and berry bushes, he experimented with varieties of fruit trees that were hardy enough to grow in a northern climate. He also supplied the table with game (moose, deer, grouse), salmon, char, and trout.

You can see how it is that I have come by my enjoyment of cooking and eating well. Each of my siblings and my own three children are all interested in food and are good cooks, thus carrying on the family tradition.

I like to cook. Although it can be interesting and challenging to cook with limitations imposed by diners who are vegetarians, on a calorie restricted diet, or who are avoiding some classification of food such as wheat, it is much more fun and creative to cook unfettered. Ground pork, Japanese eggplant, onion, tomatoes, and chili oil make a tasty Szechuan dish. Pumpkin soup is more delicious with a little dollop of heavy cream, potato latkes are tastier with both apple sauce and sour cream piled on, and there is nothing quite as lovely for dessert as a Missippippi Mudpie moist chocolate cake with mocha cream icing.

As much as I enjoy the creative process of cooking, I also enjoy feeding people. It is a very basic way to please people, to give them pleasure, and to show my feelings of caring for them. I also like to eat, not just to satisfy hunger or to fuel the body, but to enjoy savouring the food. I think that for too many people, food has become an enemy, but for me it is a very satisfying part of daily life. Food brings people together in a happy, social way. Moreover, love of good food is woven into who I am, my creative process, my sense of family, and my family's way of showing caring for each other.

So, dear reader, you understand now why changing some of my habits around food to focus on heart healthy eating and cooking is such a challenge for me. Some of those bad old habits are rooted in the fundamental things in life that make me me.

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