Food connects me to people. I don’t mean only that I feel connected when I am eating with others, what I mean is that when I make lasagna I think of my Dad, and when I make bread I think of my sister. When I am sinking my teeth into Thai food my friend Naomi is with me, when I prepare dinner for my children I think of my mother feeding me as an infant with tenderness and compassion, and before I take my meals I think of God.
One day when my children were very young and most of my days were spent building with Legos, and watching Bob the Builder, my Dad asked if he could come over and show me how to make lasagna, and of course I said yes. He brought with him a brand new chef knife for smashing the garlic. He brought over a shiny new metal bowl for mixing ricotta, cream and cottage cheese with one egg and fresh parsley. He brought a box of noodles and several cans of crushed tomatoes. He taught me how to fry hot Italian sausage but add a little water so they didn’t stick to the pan. He told me not to drain the fat but let it season the sauce and that was the day I learned how to make lasagna. He spent the whole day with me, and it was the only time I remember that anyone has ever taught me how to cook something. So when I make lasagna I think of my Dad. And it is my love dish, I make it for those I love. I make it when someone is recovering from a miscarriage, or when they are living in a hotel because they had a flood in their house. I made it every year for my father n laws birthday, I make it when we have special company like a missionary from Estonia. I make it when someone needs to feel loved because I felt so incredibly loved when my dad made it with me.
I think of my sister when I make bread, because she used to make bread every Friday afternoon for Shabbat. I would stop by her home un-announced and I would admire her kneading the bread, while we laughed and connected. Once she told me that kneading the bread made her arms strong. I never thought I could do it, it looked like so much work, and so much waiting. So now when I knead the bread for my family, and I press with the palms of my hands and roll and punch and repeat and it isn’t hard, I think of her. When I feel the muscles in my arms tighten and pinch I think of her. When I have to wait I think of her waiting- waiting for her bread to rise, waiting for her wedding to arrive, and waiting for life to get better. I think of the strength that comes from making bread and waiting.
I think of my friend Naomi when I eat Thai food, because she was the first person I ate Thai food with, and we always chose Thai restaurants to eat at after that, and we talked, about life, and children, and men, and we never stop until they close the kitchen and then we stand outside in the parking lot and talk more, and I remember, and I can taste the sweet peanuts in my mouth, and smell the basil, and I know that Thai, is the beginning sound of Time, and she is my friend who loves me with time.
So food connects me with the people I love, as it does a mother and child in those first moments after a child has taken its first breathe. I remember when my son was born, and he was barely separated from me when the nurse took his little face and pushed it towards my breast, connecting us once again. It is the very first food, the first taste of life that a child has with its mother; we learn to love food, because mother who loves, gave us life and sustained us with food from her own body.
Food unites me to people, to moments; in our memories, in our days, in our joys and sorrows. When we eat, we think things, we feel things, and we remember. When we smell food our souls are awakened, when we taste food our hearts come alive, and God knew all this. And so he gave us bread from heaven. He ripped off a piece of himself and gave to us when we were starving, when mankind had just emerged from the dust of the earth and lay there alone and dying he came , he brought everything we needed , he taught us , feeding us from his own, so that we might live and be part of him. So food even connects me to God.