I talk all the time about how I don’t remember events, but I do remember meals. The good, the bad and the ugly, but most of the time the food I remember is associated with a person who has touched me. Food is Love. God is Love too, but food is a lot easier to whip up and give to someone than God.
My grandmother made the Worlds Best Pork Chops. My happiest childhood memories were in her kitchen. She had appetizers of celery and carrot sticks, shoved into a Welch’s Jelly glass half full of water to keep them “fresh”. There was always blackberry Jell-O in a blue pyrex refrigerator dish. I have that dish now. Unfortunately she took the World’s Best Pork Chop recipe to the grave, but I do know how to make her hamburgers. They were, unequivocally and without any room for argument, the worst hamburgers I have ever had in my life.
And every once in a while, I make them exactly the way she did, in the exact same frying pan she used. And it’s like she’s still here and all is right with the world.
When I was five, I postponed running away from home to stay for my mother’s stuffed cabbage. Everything was ready. Every toy, every stitch of clothing I’d collected in my five years was piled on the bed, ready to go wherever it was I was going. Right up until the smell of stuffed cabbage wafted into my room. Running away could wait till morning. She was no fool, my mother.
Christmas morning smelled like blintzes. I get the irony, but that’s the way we rolled, man. Blintz skins were made one at a time in a small pan, which I own today. They were laid out to cool on with clean dishtowels that covered the kitchen table, before being filled, rolled and subsequently fried for breakfast and served with sour cream. My father & I stole the warm dough as it cooled when she wasn’t looking. Like I said, she was no fool. She made just enough fuss to let us think we got away with something. She’d also made extra, knowing half the joy of blintzes was in stealing the still warm skins.
And today, every time I go home there is fresh chocolate pudding in the refrigerator. There always has been. The first thing I do, when I get to her house is check the refrigerator, because food is love and even if I’ve forgotten, it’s always there. If I’m lucky, they’re still cooling on the counter, the pot has yet to be washed and I get pot lickings. Another epicurean delight I shared with my dad. The pudding pot and spoon.
A friend from Israeli stayed with me recently and made me an Israeli breakfast of eggs and a particular salad. It was amazing. She’s gone home, I miss her, and so, I make the eggs the same way and it’s like she never left.
In a Jewish home, and I’ve seen it in my Italian family’s homes too, you have to take something to eat. Something. Anything. Otherwise, we’ll lose our minds trying to figure out just what we can offer you that you will like. It is beyond comprehension that you don’t want something.
Food tugs on the heart strings, or it does on mine. I have collected all the pans, pots and bowls those loving meals were made with. I can turn back time simply by chopping, mixing, baking what it was you made for me with love that day, those days.
Food is love. If you refuse my food, you refuse my love.