I was a very picky eater as a young child. Food did not interest me. My mother fretted over my thin frame and feared malnourishment would doom me. After doggedly feeding me a variety of dishes to no avail, she finally hooked me with one dish.
Food Made with Love
It was a thick curry sauce with fish. And l devoured the hot, burning broth with great vigor while the pieces of fish were criminally ignored, for the most part. Later, as I got older, of course, I ate the fish with the reverence it deserved. It was one of those dishes that married flavors and ingredients in such perfect proportions that it had near-addictive properties. Whenever this dish was on the menu, the plates would be polished clean by all who ate at the table.
Comfort in a Dish
This is the beauty of comfort food from our youth. They cannot be replicated. The flavor is remembered as unmatched. The feelings of love and security are encompassed in these dishes. Hugs, in the form of food.
Everyone has a different dish they remember as their childhood favorite. But the common factor is that this one dish or food, makes us feel safe, taken care of and most of all, loved. And this is the key to it forever holding a place in our hearts.
Eating and Being Fed
And that is why I get impatient with anything that approaches culinary posturing. I cannot countenance anything that puts pressure on the home cook to deliver some sort of performance with food. Food should be taste and comfort, even in its simplicity.
Home cooking is a message to the eater that he is welcome and he is to share in the eating and partake in one of our most basic needs – nourishment. To me, it is my mother’s cooking.
My point is this. If someone has gone to the trouble of making a meal, the gesture is worthy of respect. I should not demand or require someone to serve me food. I should humbly partake of the food and if something doesn’t sit well with me and I cannot eat more of the food, I should stay silent.
But most importantly of all, we should remember that for a time, we have been honored with someone’s efforts, their hospitality and if even for a minute, their sacred ritual of eating. The invitation is to us, to partake of this most basic of human activities. And hence, in this, we see our common human similarity. We are one in our enjoyment of a hot meal prepared and for a time, the harmony of eating something nourishing and filling.