I love food. You may have guessed this since half of my posts end up discussing this topic in one way or another.
I wander through bakeries like some women wander through clothing stores.
My memories of life seem interlaced with food. The pork chops that my Grandma would make just for our visits: always crispy on the outside and tender on the inside…perfect every time. The first time I tasted homemade bread (thank you, Chris!!): biting into that incredibly soft and warm slice, butter melting down my chin. My dad standing over me, teaching me to make pancakes when I was 8 or 9. Alex’s dad now standing over my daughter, teaching her how to make pecan rolls, rolling them tightly so the “good stuff” stays inside. My mom’s broccoli and cheese casserole that actually made me want to eat vegetables as a child.
Coming back to the States has been difficult. Moving abroad into a different culture had it’s rough moments, but I underestimated the difficulty of returning to my own culture. We will have been back in the States for two months in just a few days, and the ache has not left my heart. I’m not sure I can fully explain why. Maybe it is leaving behind people that I am not sure I will be able to see again. It could be leaving a job that felt so impactful and productive. It could be how all of my perspectives have shifted just enough that I’m no longer as certain about some things as I was before living abroad.
Once again, I find myself comforted by food memories.
I reminisce over the meals we shared in La Paz with so many incredible people: daily breakfast with our sweet, kind Spanish professor; sharing bowls of soup with coworkers; bumping hips with dear friends as we cook for the 20+ people cramming into our apartment for dinner; eating meal after meal in home after home while fumbling through our awful Spanish; peeling hundreds of potatoes in preparation for the funeral meal of a young man, finding laughter in the middle of grief; ordering chicken wings and burgers, recreating “home” for our U.S. volunteers (and our own family, also!); meeting monthly with 20 or 30 extremely impoverished families, enjoying lunch and playing together, forgetting the anxieties of life for a few hours. It seems that everyone we met, food was the first common ground and incredible friendships grew from there.
It’s not just the taste of food. There is something comforting and connecting about it. A few weeks ago, I heard in a sermon that food references occur almost 100 times in the gospels. Frequently, Jesus is referenced in a meal setting or he is providing a meal to others.
I love how Jesus cooked breakfast for his disciples when they had become discouraged and returned to their old occupation. Jesus shows up, makes a fire and cooks a meal for them. “When they (the disciples) got there, they found breakfast waiting for them–fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.” John 21:9
Maybe that meal held a memory of an earlier meal together, a time when they felt strong and faithful, a time when promises were made and laughter was shared.
Food seems to connect and comfort, encourage and strengthen. Sure, we have abused it, like we often do with the things that are good, but it IS still good. I would love to hear about one of your food memories, if you have a family recipe that you cherish and/or even just a new cooking tip you would like to share. Feel free to share below…and maybe, somehow, we can share a meal together soon!
Cooking tips from my dear friends in La Paz
1. A little goes a long way. The women in La Paz were amazing in their frugality. Instead of using a whole onion, they would just finely dice a quarter of it. The flavor was the same but the onion was used for 3 or 4 meals!
2. Always toast your rice or quinoa before cooking.
This might not be a secret, but I learned it for the first time standing next to my dear friend, Eugenia.
3. Rinsing your quinoa halfway through the cooking time will get rid of the bitter taste.
4. Stretch your meat by adding less expensive veggies. Again, a great tip in frugality!
5. And finally… meals don’t have to be elaborate, but they always taste better if they’re shared!