Food and Love

I was so struck by the discussion I heard on the radio that I had to pull over to write the words down: “someone who loves you is at home cooking for you.”

In the social avalanche of discussions online, on-air, on-screen about fat/weight/fitness (largely misplaced and often futile) I frequently hear blame placed for our increasing girth on families and individuals being very “food focused”. We are admonished not to equate food with love.

What? Food, its procurement, its preparation and the sharing of it are love…in the deepest, most tribal, most biological sense.

Across the animal kingdom and certainly with humans, adults work all day to bring food home to their young. Somewhere in prehistory humans learned to cook their food, increasing its nutritional availability, storage potential and safety. And the smell of cooking, especially over a fire, as in grilling outdoors, is profoundly attractive to us. If you have been raised principally on rice, the smell of rice cooking is deeply familiar and elicits hunger and pleasure cues, especially when the aroma of garlic and ginger as they hit hot oil is added to it. In other households, the smell of bread baking, of meat or vegetables coated with olive oil roasting in a hot oven is similar.  Ever come home to the smell of chocolate cake baking?

A lovely young woman with a demanding professional job told me the other day how gratifying, how comforting it was to come home knowing that her husband would have been making dinner for her, to enter a house that smelled not of air freshener or aroma sticks, but of food being made for the love of her, for the love of family. It doesn’t matter if the person cooking for you is your husband or your wife, your friend, your mother, your father or a grandparent. What matters is that it is done for the love of you.

At Kartini Clinic we have spent years trying to convince busy modern families of the power of food cooked at home, the power of sharing the effort and the gift. Not only are family meals less expensive and more healthful, they promote togetherness and offer an opportunity to just talk to each other, free of distractions.

For many people today the Holidays are some kind of a mine field where they see themselves picking their way through “temptations”: cookies, candy, sauces and pies. For a moment they throw caution to the wind and suspend their obsession with weight (falsely disguised as concern for ‘health’) and then experience a guilt they cannot keep from talking about.  

It’s time, I think, to refuse to engage in this way.  Enjoy those cookies, that glazed ham, the deep yellow mashed potatoes dripping with gravy! Be grateful that you can. Be proud of what you have made possible for yourself and for others. Rather than feel guilty about partaking of the abundance of our lives, resolve instead to try and share that abundance next year with those who have less.

Take a deep breath near the kitchen, put the kettle on to boil, stick your finger in the cookie batter and lick it off; close your eyes to experience food and home. For if there is one powerful thing we can be grateful for, it is that someone who loves you is at home cooking for you.