When you hear me say that my favorite thing is food, you probably picture someone watching “When Harry Met Sally” for the umpteenth time, crying, and eating a gallon of ice cream straight out of the carton, hoping to use food as a substitute for love. This is not the case. I admit that eating is probably my number one hobby. I slept with granola bars under my pillow for years. I made it a personal goal to drink my way through the entire Starbucks holiday menu. But besides just tasting good, different foods can be linked back to positive memories and time spent with my family.
The first seafood I ever enjoyed was clam chowder. My family and my aunt, uncle and cousins would spend a week in an old house on Cape Cod every summer. Part of the appeal was getting to go to the beach, a foreign concept when you’re from West Texas. The other part of the appeal was the food. Fishing, crabbing, and clamming ensued. At the end of the day, we would watch my uncle stand over a large black pot and mix together the chowder. As we sat out on the deck cradling steaming bowls, I decided that this soup-type thing was superior to the highly esteemed fruit roll-up. Now, whenever I taste clam chowder, I immediately think of being eight and watching my dad clean fish, getting yelled at for attempting to slide down the banister, and my mom reading the first chapter of the last Harry Potter book.
Christmas cookies have a similar effect on me. Every year, around the time when Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge began to dwindle, my mom would pull out an accordion folder filled with recipes and get to work. She would mix dough for spritz cookies, buckeye cookies, and anisette cookies. She made cookies with dates, with coconut, and with oranges. My sisters and I were only allowed to help with the batches that my mom did not plan on giving away to neighbors and teachers. This was fair. The cookies she made were as immaculate as renaissance paintings. The cookies we made resembled the melting clocks painted by Salvador Dali. Last year, my mom mailed me a package filled with the result of all of her hard work and I was reminded of Christmas at home. Based on their appearance, my sister had not been allowed to help.
When I developed an appreciation for coffee, my mom, an unashamed coffee addict, was ecstatic. I used to dislike the bitter taste but eventually came to like it after my mom would make me weak lattes in high school when I had a late night of homework. She would carefully count spoonfuls of coffee as she moved them from her favorite Mickey Mouse coffee jar to the coffeemaker. Now, if I am around while she is preparing the coffeemaker for the next day she cheerfully says, “Since you’re the only one out of your sisters that likes coffee, you get the Mickey Mouse jar once I’m dead!”
I love food. Not just because I love eating it, but also because it makes me think of my family. Food brings me back to everything that went along with the things we ate and prepared together. Alan D. Wolfelt said that “food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” Truer words have never been spoken.