Food. Yummy food. I grew up on homemade yummy food from the motherland of Germany (my heritage from both sides of the family).
“Kids, grandma has fresh bierocs coming out of the oven! Who wants to go?”
As four kids and my two parents piled into dad’s car we would drive to grandma’s house, open the front door and be greeted by heavenly smells accompanied by the sounds of pots and pans clanging in the kitchen. Other cousins and aunts and uncles would all be arriving about the same time and as we entered the kitchen we would say hello to grandma and find our place around the table and begin helping ourselves to the fresh baked bierocs that were cooling in the center of the table. She needed her army of family members to clear out room for the next dozen batches of what some call “cabbage burgers” (ground beef, cabbage and onion wrapped in homemade bread dough and baked to golden perfection) that would be coming out of the oven over the next hour. I loved ketchup with my bierocs and ignored my cousins rolling of the eyes as they told me “that is just wrong!” Grandma Jean’s bierocs were so juicy they didn’t need anything, but ketchup was and still is my condiment of choice. Now this story takes place in my grandma Jean’s kitchen, but I had Grandma Dororthy across town who cooked in the same fashion and with the same love. She too cooked amazing bierocs, but for the sake of this story I will tell you she is well known for her brunches which consisted of homemade sweet rolls (cinnamon rolls, poppyseed rolls, cherry rolls and the list goes on) along with eggs, pancakes, bacon, sausage, and fruit. You couldn’t fit a spoonful of everything on a single plate (I don’t know how I don’t weigh 500 pounds!).
No matter the grandmother, she cooked for an entire army! Always! And her job wasn’t complete until you rolled out the door in a food comma. But my grandmothers didn’t just feed their families, they fed the entire community! Everyone knew my grandmothers because they were either feeding the entire church every Wednesday night before midweek school began or prepping the post funeral meal for hundreds.
I am 36 years old and my Grandmother Dorothy who is about to turn 90 is still living (and cooking). At almost 90 she traveled seven hours to be with us for Thanksgiving and no, she did not show up emptyhanded. She brought each of her grandkids a plate of homemade cookies!
My late grandmother Jean passed away several Thanksgivings ago, but when I think of her funeral I smile because the entire town was rallied to turn their leftover turkey into casseroles for a post funeral meal to feed the hundreds in attendance (as well as honor her). For at least a month after her passing, Wednesday night church dinners were still being served with grandma’s home cooking. Why? Because in order to get a jump start on upcoming meals she would store things in her two freezers in the garage.
Yes, my grandmothers were always in the kitchen because people were hungry, but that isn’t the only reason… they loved that big. They loved people and wanted to help in their celebrations as well as in their hardships. So they cooked. Their cooking was and is a love language.
I’m a speaker for a living, but I have learned some of the most powerful ways to communicate a message is to shut up. Listen and serve.
I love to cook. I find it part artform, part meditation. As I’ve gotten older I have realized good food is a way to say “I love you” without it being awkward or weird. It is a way to say “I’m here for you”. It is a way to say “I’m sorry for your hardship.” It is a way to say “I’m proud of your accomplishment and let’s celebrate.”
Yesterday afternoon I took my computer glasses off and put on my favorite apron. I pulled out my best pots and pans before I sharpened my chef’s knife. My counter was scattered with onions, garlic, celery, carrots, chicken, beef, beans and so much more. It was time to put away the busy work and say “I love you and I’m here for you” for a few of my friends – one who just said goodbye to his mom and the other who is watching ALS take her husband. I can’t fix their situation nor can I say the right thing, but I can feed them! And I can feed them good food! That is what my grandmothers taught me.
So I chopped and diced and sautéed for two hours until I had homemade chicken noodle soup simmering and my special gringo enchiladas ready for delivery.
Did my grandmothers love to cook or did they just love? I thought of them last night as I prayed over the food I was stirring. “God, give my friends strength and peace. Fill their belly’s so they may get a good night’s sleep.”
Thank you to both of my grandmothers who taught me how to say I love you by serving.