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All the Meals that Have Loved Me

January 3, 2015

Coffee and toast

One of my cookbooks said that part of classical Indian cuisine is to enter the kitchen with a loving heart – that part of creating a nourishing meal is the mood with which the chef cooks.

The best meals are created with the eater in mind – part of the pleasure of the cook is the cook imagining the pleasure of the eater. Each ingredient is chosen and prepared as a gift.

The worst meals can feel like an assault. When the food is before you, you think “No one cares about me,” or worse, “The person who made this hates me.”

I remember a salad with green apples I ordered at a Marie Callender’s that was prepared so carelessly that it made my heart hurt for the world. I know that sounds melodramatic, but the sight of that limp, browning lettuce and hacked-up apples made me feel like a trust had been broken. The message from the person on the other end of that salad was “This will probably make you unhappy. I do not care.”

Then there are the other meals, meals that feel like a blessing. I remember a meal from more than 10 years ago that a friend made and served on his Santa Monica patio – a pasta alla checca that was simple and fresh and so perfect for the evening. It was, in a word, beautiful. He took a great deal of pride in his cooking, and the friends that gathered that night were fed by his love of food and his care for us.

I made a berry cobbler for a church potluck last year that prompted a man to grab my hands and declare “Marry me!” We both laughed – he’s already married – but I’m happy he could feel my care in that food.

I was meditating this morning on things I love to do (I’m going through Mark Nepo’s ‘The Book of Awakening’) and cooking came up. This year, I want to cook for more people. I want to let them know they’re important and cared for. It’s a small thing, a passing thing, but in the end, even the Parthenon falls. Most of us will build no great buildings, but we can build small moments of great care. That’s what I want to do.

  1. January 3, 2015 14:40

    Oh, I love this. It touches on the idea of intention (a word that threatens to spoil for me as it gets such frequent use). I absolutely agree with your position that if you go into it with love, that will be felt. I know that on the mornings that I pack lunches with joy rather than resentment, it changes how the girls receive the lunch AND how I go through the rest of the day. Thank you for this reminder.

  2. January 3, 2015 21:43

    I cook almost every night for my family as my way of showing my love, not as a chore. They really do appreciate it.

  3. January 4, 2015 21:46

    Do you know about Penzey’s spices? Family biz that has slowly and carefully grown–they do catalog sales ( and the catalogs are great reading) and have brick-and-mortar places around the U.S. Check them out , you’ll like them, methinks.

    One if their slogans is, “Love People. Cook them tasty food.”

  4. cindymaddera permalink
    January 5, 2015 05:55

    This reminds me. I need to get to work on that cookbook idea I have in my brain. I love the stories of food and how it connects us.

  5. Maria in Oregon permalink
    January 6, 2015 20:43

    I love Indian food , and I do remember somewhere reading that about cooking with love. It’s so true. I always cook with love. No matter if it’s a meticulously put-together vegetarian lasagna or toast and Marmite. Or a PB&J. Or chicken tikka massala. Bless you and your kitchen!

  6. jellyjules permalink
    January 31, 2015 18:45

    Around here, we like to say that the most important ingredient in any dish is love. 🙂 I agree, caring makes a huge difference in the way food tastes.

    I’m too late to comment on your Gilmore Girls posts. I didn’t watch that show when it was on, because it was opposite Buffy, and DUH, Buffy ruled. But then at some point it was on SoapNet, and I watched it there and loved it. Lorelei is annoying as hell, but I love her anyway. Rory is boring. I love Richard and Emily, though they’re evil and snobby so often. But they amuse the hell out of me. I had a one month sabbatical from work last August, and my daughter was in school and my husband was working and I had no money for a lovely vacation, so one thing I did was to watch the entire GG series from beginning to end. This took dedication, as I do not own them, and they were not on Netflix yet. I borrowed the DVDs from the library. It was fun.

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