Years ago I spent the day canning homemade applesauce. After a full day of labor, my then four year old took one taste of it and shuddered. With a look of pure disgust on his face, he asked me what I had put in it. I rolled my eyes and simply responded, “love.” He looked me dead in the eye and said, “Mommy, your love tastes BAD!” For the record, the rest of the family enjoyed that applesauce (he was my pickiest one), and years later my kids still re-tell that story. It is the stuff of family legend, one of many stories revolving around food.
These stories and memories from their childhood, they are what give me life. They give me purpose when I’m standing in my kitchen day in and day out preparing yet another meal. In the end, I’m not sure if it’s the food as much as the memories (and yes, love) that go into our daily meals. But I do know that the time and effort that are put into our kitchen produce exponential results.
One might assume with five boys (and one tiny girl) that our grocery bill is ginormous. And I can confirm that assumption is most definitely correct. Even though groceries are a significant portion of our weekly budget, we do not view it as a problem. After all, what better way to spend your money than to nourish your family day after day? Our kids like to eat, we like to eat. And if we cook them good food, electronics get put aside, screens are shut down and conversations start. Or, even better, silence ensues because the food is THAT good (and angels begin singing).
Like most families, we have a few traditions surrounding food that we all look forward to. Christmas Eve means we have Chinese takeout before the candlelight service and Christmas morning we have hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls. I make my grandma’s griddle cakes every weekend for breakfast and we create our own pizzas on most Friday nights. But our family’s favorite tradition is on almost every Sunday (weather permitting) my husband grills our dinner. The day is often spent relaxing, everyone going their separate ways, but as evening comes, they come out of the woodwork then out on the deck with Dad as he prepares their food. Once the meal is complete, we gather around the table and relish the result of his efforts.
It is sometimes the quietest our house is all week and it is the best sound in the world.
As our kids grow older, with one now in the Navy, we realize how each and every meal around our beaten up kitchen table mean to us. Every family meal is yet another opportunity to connect and create a memory that my kids can carry with them into adulthood. This Thanksgiving will be the first time that our oldest will not be able to join us. He will be where he is supposed to be, doing what he has set out to do. Yes, I’m sad that he won’t be with us, but I know that he carries hundreds of memories of family meals together in his heart. Memories of holiday meals, yes. But also ones that weren’t holidays, just ordinary Sundays where his Dad made his steak just the way he liked it and I made the mashed potatoes and carrots to go with it.
He’ll remember the youngest brothers slightly annoying him and his new little sister laughing across the table from him. He will remember the times we lingered after dinner, with the dishes pushed away, catching up on our week.
Or hanging out on the deck, listening to music and talking to his brothers.
When my husband or I take the time to create meals for our children, we want them to know that they are loved and accepted. We want them to carry with them many warm, happy memories as a family gathered around the table. We want our kids to know that food is nourishing for your body and your soul. That you can cook a meal for someone who just came home from the hospital and heal them in a way that a card cannot. That you can make some cookies or bring extra cucumbers from your garden to your neighbor and absolutely make their week. When you take the time to make food for another person, no matter what that meal may be, the result is often so much more than you think.
Our meals are not fancy and they do not require extraordinary ingredients.
They do contain, every time, lots of love.