FOOD IS LOVE

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breugel-village-wedding-feast.jpg December 26, 2014 56 kB 384 × 288

“It is a wonderful seasoning of all enjoyments to think of those we love.” (Molière)

One afternoon when he was about 16, my youngest son arrived home from school, crossed the threshold into the house, stopped, drew in a long, noisy breath through his nose, then exhaled with deep satisfaction and said:  “Ahhhhhhhhhh! It smells good!” (pause) “It smells like love.”

I don’t remember what was simmering in the kitchen, but I know that I smiled and thought:  He’s right; he understands perfectly. His words gave me such a sense of happiness. And he WAS right, wasn’t he? At a very basic human level, food is how we express our love for each other.

It seems like the right time of year to consider this. I think we’re likely to be a little more receptive to it, because the best thing about all the Holiday craziness is that we allow ourselves to be festive and to put the sharing of food at the centre of our celebrations.

I decided to search through the Library’s catalogue to see what space it affords books about food, and I’m happy to say that my online search using the words food and cooking turned up hundreds of books, some fiction and the majority, non-fiction. Most, of course, were cookbooks.

1581572468.01.LZZZZZZZBut be forewarned:  in this blog post, W doesn’t mean Weight Watchers or Wheat Belly, P doesn’t stand for Paleo, and G won’t be Gluten Free. I won’t be writing about ways of eating to melt fat away and I won’t be striving to be sushi slim. I can honestly say that I don’t particularly want to eat to beat fatigue, power 0143183788.01.LZZZZZZZup health and feel ten years younger (though the latter would be nice). Also, this blog post won’t be about the science of superfoods, and rawlicious won’t necessarily mean delicious. I won’t be trying to convince you to join the quinoa revolution, and I don’t think I’ll ever be convinced that oatmeal is all that outrageous.

I’m interested in the books that celebrate food as a means of human connection: food as joy, as pleasure and as a shared experience, and the library has many of these in its collection.

There are lots of writers and chefs who have such a passion for food that they’re just bursting to share it. Anthony Bourdain is certainly one of these, as are Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver.

1553650204.01.LZZZZZZZThere are home grown chefs, like Anne Desjardins (who cooks at L’Eau à la Bouche) and Martin Picard (founder of the celebrated restaurant Au Pied de Cochon), who have also weighed in with books that leave you drooling and eager to head out for a wonderful, convivial evening of dining downtown.

Some books caught my attention because of their irresistible titles, like:

The adaptable feast : satisfying meals for the vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores at your table, by Ivy Manning (now THAT’s inclusive!);

An Exaltation of soups: the soul-satisfying story of soup, as told in more than 100 recipes, by 1400050359.01.LZZZZZZZPatricia Solley;

1582437416.01.LZZZZZZZLove in a Dish, and other culinary delights, by MFK Fisher;

And of course The Book of Chocolate (need I say more?), by Nathalie Bailleux.

 

And then, there’s that wonderful term comfort food, which suggests that there are flavours and dishes capable of evoking memories of home and contentment, and that there are times when cooking for a loved one is the best kind of nurturing.

Anne Gardon’s Comfort Food fast: easy and elegant fare that soothes the soul certainly fits the bill, as does Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate, classic comfort food that makes everyone feel like family, which is probably not a celebration of lean cuisine.

Our personal connection to food is manifest in many books that are part (auto)biography and part culinary adventure.

031604279X.01.LZZZZZZZOne of these is Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris: a love story with recipes. The summary of Bard’s book begins like this:

In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman–and never went home again.

Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak’s pink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? LUNCH IN PARIS is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs–one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Marusya Bociurkiw’s Comfort Food for Breakups: the memoir of a hungry girl, described this way in the Library catalogue:

“For the author, both at home in Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia, and in her travels through North America and Europe, food becomes her salvation, and a way to engage with the world. Thoughtful, moving, and passionate, Comfort Food for Breakups muses upon the ways in which food intersects with a nexus of hungers: for intimacy, for sex, for home.”

In some of these books, food becomes a language when words are no longer enough, as in Alex Witchel’s All gone, A  memoir of 159448791X.01.LZZZZZZZmy mother’s dementia, with refreshments, in which the author asks the poignant question:  Is there any contract tighter than a family recipe?” .

There’s also Keeping the Feast, one couple’s story of love, food, and healing in Italy, by Paula Butturini, described  as “[…] the triumphant memoir of one couple’s nourishment and restoration after a period of tragedy, and the extraordinary sustaining powers of food, family, and friendship.

But what of our  everyday lives, when in matters of eating, convenience often overrides all other considerations? Is it possible to be practical without sacrificing the pleasure of shared meals?

0446565466.01.LZZZZZZZBooks like Lisa Caponigri’s Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner? A year of Italian menus, with more than 250 recipes that celebrate family  and Laurie David’s wonderful : The Family Dinner, Great Ways to connect with your kids, one meal at a time attempt to answer that question with a resounding YES!

Meanwhile, Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg take things one step further in The Good Neighbor Cook book: 125 easy and delicious recipes to surprise and satisfy the new moms, new neighbors, recuperating friends, community-meeting members, book club cohorts, and block party pals in your life!, reminding us that the giving and sharing of food is often the simplest way to express compassion, concern and kindness in community.   

On the shelves of the Library, you can find a local expression of this kind of community spirit in the Valois Park Home and School Cookbook, which reminded me of the St. Thomas High School Jubilee Cookbook I purchased many years ago, and which I still use all the time (it’s the source of my very best chocolate cake recipe, aptly called “Mother’s Best Fudge Cake”, which was submitted by Leslie Vezina―Class of ’85).

These little cookbooks are wonderful archives of precious and favourite recipes―always tried and true―and often passed along, generation after generation, carrying the tastes and smells we associate with family members we love and perhaps miss.

157324211X.01.LZZZZZZZAnd just as we often cap off our meals with a warm cup of tea, so does it seem appropriate to finish off with Theresa Cheung’s  Tea Bliss, Infuse your Life with health, Wisdom and Contentment.

*************

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

 

“He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.”
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

“It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it… and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied… and it is all one.”
M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition

Happy Holidays everyone! Eat, drink and be merry!

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6 thoughts on “FOOD IS LOVE

  1. Oh boy! Michelle you had me at The Book of Chocolate! But seriously, food really is love. Reading your blog, I’m recalling happily all the wonderful meals my Dad(he was the top chef in our household while growing up..) apple ‘n pineapple pies, bread pudding, glazed ham(with pineapple, omgoodness that was sooooo delicious), breakfast, no one made sunny side up eggs better than my Dad. Christmas time was the best, my Dad would have the table set just right, with serviettes, and a menu. He lovvved to cook and nothing warms a chef’s heart more than seeing people eating ‘n enjoying the meal. My Mom was no slouch in the kitchen either, one of my favourites was her corned beef with rice and onions..yummmy. A friend once said that a meal made with love tastes the best. I believe enjoying a meal made with love, with the people you love is the very best.

  2. Oh dear Lorraine, what a fantastic comment. All I can say in response is YES, YES, YES, that’s exactly what I mean and what it’s all about. Your descriptions are so sensual and full of smells and flavours and memories and just pure joy!

    Did your dad use cookbooks and family recipes, or did he just cook from his experience and knowledge of cooking?

    The chefs who tend to work from their inspiration generally create memorable food, but the frustration comes when their loved ones want to write these solid gold recipes down for posterity!

    Do you like to cook? Are you a cook like your dad?

    In any case, thanks for your wonderful addition to this subject.
    And HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    Michelle

  3. My favorite and most original cookbook is “La Mafia se met à table,” a treasury of Sicilian recipes and Cosa Nostra anecdotes assembled by Jacques Kermoal and Martine Bartolomei. Man, could those goodfellas eat — and cook. Many of the recipes are best done in the summer, when the vegetables are in good supply at Jean-Talon market, but the roast lamb with the anchovy sauce would be a good variation for this time of the year. The French publisher is Actes Sud; with a little luck the book is still available.

  4. Oh my gosh, David, I bet those dishes are fantastic. You’re right, the concept is brilliant.

    But I also recognise your offbeat (and a touch subversive) sense of humour in proposing the menus of Mafia dons for a blog exploring the theme of Food as Love. 🙂

    I found paperback copies of the book online and I’m sorely tempted to buy one (unfortunately, the Library doesn’t have a copy).

    For those able to read French, here’s the publisher’s description of the book:

    “Douze ans de séjour en Italie m’ont appris que l’histoire de la Mafia s’identifie absolument avec l’histoire de la gastronomie sicilienne”, écrit Jacques Kermoal. Avec humour, il raconte ici dix rendez-vous décisifs authentiques en les illustrant des menus — bien souvent de véritables festins — qui y furent servis. Ainsi, du “banquet de Messine, 1860” au “déjeuner au palais épiscopal de Palerme, 1948”, du “déjeuner chez Lucky Luciano, Naples, 1962” au “repas d’anniversaire à Montelepre, 1972″, le lecteur retiendra l’anecdote historique autant que les recettes aux noms prometteurs : cuissot de chevreuil faisandé à l’eau-de-vie de prunes d’Agrigente, courge à l’aigre-douce, flan de châtaignes, cocktail de pâtes froides à la crème, aubergines et tomates à la Caponata, mérou au four, sorbet à l’orange…”

    JACQUES KERMOAL
    http://www.actes-sud.fr/catalogue/cuisine-et-gastronomie/la-mafia-se-met-table-0

  5. At the very end of their lives, Hospice patients beam with pleasure at the sight of a meal tray. And many initiate enthusiastic conversations about food. One man, who died the next day, promised me that “when I get better I am going to make you the best BBQ ribs you’ve ever had!” Today, a new patient asked me, “So… what’s the history of food?” (yup, she’s a bit confused and a whole lotta fun)

  6. Food is memory. You evoke it in your comment, Danielle, and so does Lorraine M.
    I’m so happy to know that’s the case: surely, for most of us, food memories are happy ones. At least I hope so.
    Thanks so much for sharing your insight.

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