Monday, January 20, 2014

Random Thoughts# 5 Food and Love part 2

In part one on this topic, Random Thoughts #4 Food and Love,  I looked at a special cook book, The Secrets of Pistolet, and wondered if the secret ingredient that makes some meals magical is really only love. The recipes in this enchanting book suggest that it is not only the careful choice of the ingredients, but also the method of cooking, including the ambience, which gives food the healing properties our bodies and minds sometimes need.

In this post on how we prepare food, I will be looking only at domestic situations. Institutional cooking deserves a post of its own. 

So, if I am postulating that it is cooking with love that makes food taste really good, I am inviting you to think about meals which stand out in your memory. When I got married, my husband was loud in praise of his mother's cooking and it seemed clear that I could not hope to compete. However, as I redoubled my efforts, and probably fell more in love with him, the comparisons faded. It was only her Saturday soup that I couldn't compete with. Since I don’t like Saturday soup, I think I must have cooked it (when I condescended to do so) only as a chore, therefore it wasn't going to taste more than so-so.

So why don't I like Saturday soup? Rewind to my childhood when Saturday was chores day and cooking was an afterthought, just another chore for my mother. The soup was thrown together not just because it was traditional, but because it was the easiest meal to cook. It never tasted good to me, and I would dawdle over it until it was cold and even more insipid, despite her threats.

Contrast that with her Sunday dinner (lunch really), half cooked either overnight or early morning because we had to go to our church service which didn't end until about noon. On returning from church, she would go into the kitchen and finish cooking the meal in a loving frame of mind (no doubt fortified by the Holy Spirit from the service). Wow! Something to look forward to, as I recall.

Over the Christmas season, I saw a post on Facebook from one of our prominent world leading athletes, about a Christmas when things were so tight at home that her mother could only cook her best turned cornmeal with saltfish for Christmas dinner. But she remembers sitting with her family and thoroughly enjoying the meal – (I am adding this) perhaps more than those in affluent homes with lavish meals where ill will is sometimes the sauce flavouring the whole meal. I was struck by her use of the word best. Obviously her mother took great care with the preparation of the meal. It was cooked with love. In the spirit of The Secrets of Pistolet, she might even have been singing some carols as she cooked.

All my girls and my granddaughter cook very well. But, I can tell the difference in the taste of the food when it is prepared simply because it is 'my' turn as opposed to when extra goodwill and love is added to the ingredients.

Then again, there are individuals who will say that their mothers could not cook. I wonder if this was tied to constant negative feelings in the home?

I KNOW that I have prepared meals in times of stress when family have eaten only because they didn't want to further hurt my feelings. And I have been invited to meals in other people's homes and served food which should have been good but which tasted like thrash. Perhaps it works both ways, the love has to be shared to make the meal spectacular, and make us not only feel full, but zing our taste buds and leave us satisfied in body and mind.

Do you have any favourite meals from your past which fit my theory?

Note: Traditional Saturday soup in Jamaica is usually well seasoned beef soup with vegetables, (lots of pumpkin for colour) and starchy foods like yams and potatoes and dumplings (the best part).

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