Foodie Life

Love goes through the kitchen

Why is food and cooking so special in creating and cherishing bonds?

One could argue that love goes through, occurs, exists, survives and is preserved in any and every room of a dwelling where people who love each other reside. But I think that the kitchen is special.

As of late, I’m spending more time in the kitchen than ever before. I’m experimenting with recipes, I’m studying old, dusty cookbooks and I’m feeding the family. In my heart, food, cooking and spending time in the kitchen have always been and probably will always be incredibly important. Here are some reasons why:

Love goes through the kitchen… literally.

Who walks through the kitchen on a daily basis? Assuming you live with a partner, a family member, your family of X number of members or whoever else is special to you, it is almost certain that those people walk through the home’s kitchen at least once a day. It’s easy to skip walking through the living room, the dining room, the garden etc.. But everyone will most likely go through the kitchen.

Photos of my Mama and I making traditional Greek Christmas biscuits together, kourampiethes. Taken exactly oone year apart.

Food is the most THE MOST humble, honest and genuine way to show others that you care.

We all need food. If someone else is kind enough to put something together for us, it is because they care. Food is a beautiful way to declare love and appreciation towards others, even when other means, such as words or money, fail to do the job.

I characteristically remember an article I read months ago about a woman living in Istanbul, Turkey. She was a refugee from Syria, who had left her dead husband and dead child behind in a war-torn mess to pursue a better life for herself and her remaining children in a different country. The woman was trying to make do with what little she had and she wanted to create bonds within her new community. One of the local women had supported her by helping her and her children settle in and so she wanted to say thanks to the woman by cooking something authentic, Syrian, for her. She had no recipe books, no access to the internet and barely and money and resources. She said that the knowledge and experience she put into her cooking was the only skill, the only “belonging” that she possessed and so she gave a taste of that to her fellow human. She gave the other woman a piece of the only type of wealth she carried. And that to me is extremely valuable.

Even if the dish turns out shit you know it’s got some of my love in it. My love for eating.

My Yiayia Eleni’s most famous dish is her legendary Spanakopita (spinach pie). The recipe has been passed down multiple generations and originates from the mountainous villages of Northern Epirus (in northern Greece).

Creating successful dishes makes me think of my loved ones that aren’t here with me.

There’s three cooks in my life that I respect more than any other cooks in the world. My Father and my two grandmothers. My grandparents played a massive part in my upbringing due to my parents being away on work with the Navy. Due to the fact that I live in a continent far away from where my big Greek family lives, I miss my grandmothers very dearly. There’s definitely a price that comes along with moving far from your loved-ones, I’m sure that other immigrants can sympathise with this.

I can’t cook with my grandmothers where I am currently living, I can’t see them, or hug them. But by cooking I can feel proud that I’m looking up to them. That I’m trying to perfect their recipes and continue their legacy. I know that when my Yiayia (grandmother) made something yummy for us, all of her love and knowledge was generously being offered to me through that food. To my Yiayia and to every loving Yiayia out there, thank you.

The kitchen is where tensions and fights happen… and this can be very good.

I am a very possessive woman when I cook. If a recipe is underway and I’ve taken over the stove-kingdom, stay out of my way because I can be a b***h. Unless it is my Dad or any of my 2 grandmothers that’s around. I am arrogant and I think I’m better than other cooks and when I’m stressed, tired and irritable I can be a huge pain in the butt in the kitchen.

And so when my loved ones are also tired or stressed, we inevitably get into fights over silly things. The temperature of our blood rises together with the temperature of boiling water.. I’m talking like the gesticulating, loud Greek that I am and waving a knife to try and make a point that my partner is chopping the pumpkin wrong and it’s a crime to do so.

Is it healthy that so much tension can come out? Not always… but when people can rise above the petty, silly fights, when they can learn to tame their stress and be kind to each other, they can make-up after a fight and are able to remember precisely how much they mean to each other. The kitchen is a test for the strength of love, in other words.

The Lebanese table that my friend put together was unforgettable! I still dream about the food.

Food is travelling and meeting new cultures. And many of us love that stuff.

I remember the time my amazing friend from Lebanon opened her home to myself and some other friends and she put together a very authentic Lebanese feast for us. I swear, I fell in love with Lebanese cuisine that day! And it wasn’t at all the same as having some blunt chop of meat in a cheap “Lebanese-style” restaurant somewhere out.

When we try food from other places we inevitably “travel” there… our tastebuds jump on a magic carpet ride to a corner of the world where things are different, people are different, culture is different. When we love the journey of trying new food, we inevitably become open to the possibility of loving a culture that is different to our own. We stop for a moment and remember that we are lucky to be living in a world full of variety and beauty of different kinds.

Money can’t buy happiness (maybe, sort of). But with food you can bribe people into loving you.

Famously said, “the way to a man’s heart is through their stomach”.

Damn right.

That goes for everyone you know and meet. What better way to open up your home and your heart to others than to cook for them? What better excuse to bring people together than to tell them you’re cooking up something pretty special and you’d love to have them over to try it?

I often feel like I live in a society where people work so much and so hard and are constantly “too busy” to make meeting with each other a priority. I have often suffered from feelings of loneliness and isolation in conjunction with being “too busy”. I think part of it is my own personal experience of living in a country where I didn’t grow up. Another part is how our society is structured and what it expects from us busy, working bees.

But when I think about the times I’ve had people over for lunch or dinner my heart is warmed. I grow hope that this is a way that I can open my life and my heart to the prospect of new friendships and new bonds, in this society or any society.

I look forward to experimenting on you, friends, with my favourite recipes. SO beware!

 

 

Food really is the lubricant that people and communities need to come and to stay together. Food is memories, food is knowledge and our family’s and history’s wealth. Food is one of the best ways to honour the love that we have for others.

 

M xx

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