How food feeds our souls
We all know that we have to eat a certain amount of food each day in order to keep our bodies functioning and alive. Most of us are lucky enough to have many choices available to us: some good and others not so good. But food (under the right circumstances) does more than just sustain our bodies; it also sustains our souls.
Bruce & I have lost a couple of friends over the past 6 months, and we’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to support our friends life celebrations with food. We prepared and served appetizers and finger foods for one celebration earlier this month, and while the focus of the gathering was on the memory of the departed friend, the food (and drink) helped to lift everyone’s spirits and make it more joyful. Another opportunity we had was to provide several prepared meals for arriving relatives so the host did not have to worry about feeding them during their visit. It was a relief to open the refrigerator and pull out a lasagne, a meatloaf, or Mac’n’Cheese and pop it in the oven. We can all remember times when we were younger, how friends and neighbors would show up at another friends home with a pie or casserole when someone was sick, injured, or had passed away to show their love and support.
Whenever people gather anywhere there is sure to be food in some form or fashion served. The custom goes back many many years and it most likely originated out of necessity. If one of the members of the tribe or clan was unable to gather food, the tribe or clan pulled together to help feed that member. In some cultures, it is customary to slaughter a prized animal to celebrate the gathering with the honored guest being offered the choicest selection. Our connection with food is much deeper than we realize. How many times have we gathered with friends or family members with food being present—even if it was just beer and peanuts or chips—and enjoyed ourselves? I can remember when I was younger, going to visit my aunt and cousins (my father’s sister); it didn’t matter if I had just eaten a four-course meal and was stuffed, I had to sit down and eat something at her house. Feeding you a bowl of pasta with sauce or a piece of chocolate cake was how she showed you that she cared about you, and you were supposed to reciprocate by eating whatever was set in front of you——and liking it.
You can certainly go to a fast-food or chain restaurant and eat a meal with perfunctory service and satisfy your body’s request for nourishment, but if you stop to think about it, did that meal satisfy your soul? The marketing and advertising of these corporations try to sell you on the good feelings their foods will give when you eat them. Ask yourself these questions: does the food look that way when you buy it and do you feel that good when you eat it? In contrast, compare that dining experience with a holiday or celebratory gathering where food was prepared by friends or family and enjoyed at the table together. It might have taken a few days to prepare that special dish or dessert and love was certainly put into every step of the way. You felt happy and satisfied along with the feeling of fullness and everyone had a smile on their face because they felt that love.
I have found, through my new career, that food affects people in profound ways. I always felt I knew that instinctively, but now I have proof: I have seen people’s eyes well up with tears as they thank me for the meal I just served them to celebrate their parent’s anniversary, to honor a deceased partner, to celebrate a life-long friendship, or for my family’s meatball recipe I just gave them. I am moved and deeply gratified to participate in these events and to share my knowledge (and recipes). This is the meaning and purpose I was looking for and I am grateful I found it.
Food brings us fond memories of Grandma’s apple pie, Aunt Betty’s beef stew, our neighbor’s meatloaf, and thousands of others. Some of us are stingy with our recipes, because we feel that we need to be in control of those good feeling or that we won’t be needed if someone else can make it instead. The reality is that no matter how many people recreate the recipe, none of them will taste exactly like the one you make. The reason is the love and the care that is put into each step; it is something that can be tasted! Besides, isn’t it better to share something of yourself by giving that recipe freely? You are honored every time someone makes that dish. And, the beauty is over time, that other person will make that recipe their own thus propagating the love and caring you gave them with that first forkful.
It inspires me to see so many recipe sharing websites on the internet. You can download a recipe on virtually anything these days…..making cookbooks a little obsolete. I will never give up my cookbooks (I have many) because they have been and continue to be the foundation of my cooking skills. I had them when I was a home cook, and I will keep them as a professional chef. I have created many of my own recipes from the inspiration found between those pages.
I invite everyone to become more mindful of feeding the soul through the food you eat along with the environment and company you eat it with. Our fast-paced, convenience-driven society has removed the soul from our meals. The act of preparing a simple meal and sitting down at a table with the ones we love with no television, cell phones, IPads, Gameboys, or any other distractions, and enjoying the food together is powerful. It will make you and everyone else feel good which is how food feeds your soul. Oh, and be sure to share that special recipe the next time someone asks for it…… A Presto!