Posted by PintofStout on November 20, 2007
‘Tis the season to atone for being arrogant ingrates for the greater part of the year by remembering all the “little” things that we take for granted. It is also the time for feasting with no strings attached. More and more, recently, I’ve heard sentiments about how Thanksgiving is so much better than Christmas because of the lack of pressure for exchanging gifts and, therefore, no hectic days spent among the throngs of people shopping. (Apparently, these people didn’t go to the grocery store this past weekend.) It can just be about plenty of delicious, fatty foods and the company of friends and family. Most people tend to focus on the food more than the family, but I think the idea of home and family is closely intertwined with food.
I never thought much about the connection of food to feelings of home and family until K__ wrote of her fond remembrances of her mother in a recent post over at Llamanation. She recalls fondly the very specific meals that were meticulously prepared for her by her mom; meals that were meant to convey love and affection and succeeded with flying colors. The feelings I’m certain K__’s mom had while preparing a meal for loved ones is probably common amongst most cooks who enjoy preparing a delicious meal for loved ones: the feeling of providing comfort, health, and a tangible sense of security. It is that familiar and repeated culinary embrace, that warm fulfilling sense of security, and the feeling of being looked after in such a fundamental way that makes food such an inalienable part of what people associate with home.
To a lesser degree, assembling with family or very close friends over a meal brings a warm sensation of comfort. The meal need not evoke a feeling of being home, which requires years and years of repetition, but it does bring a feeling of togetherness. (I guess eggs really do make a great binder!) The food is still meticulously prepared to the joy of the cook and the fed, and it becomes a bond of caring and friendship and love.
Many dishes, especially ethnic cuisine, recall meals from the past in far away places. The place need not have been visited by all, but the memory is passed down from generation to generation on a platter (or in a bowl). The preparation of a traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey and various side dishes can be defined by family; every family with different variations and combinations that make it theirs. When a meal like that is eaten, it is impossible not to remember those who have shared – and especially those who prepared – those meals in the past.