Growing up, it was etched into my mind that food = love. And while I wish I had learned the lesson that food = fuel and that love = love, I can’t help but slide back into memories of watching cooking shows with my dad or helping him in the kitchen. He told me that his paternal grandmother was a caterer and even though she died when he was very little, he remembers being a toddler, playing beneath her table in the kitchen, squealing like a little mouse begging for cheese. That imagery, combined with watching Italian nonnas like Lidia Bastianich and Mary Ann Esposito with my dad as they whipped up dishes really helped me make love synonymous with food.
I was raised with both of my parents and while my mom did most of the cooking during the week, my dad ran the kitchen on Sundays and holidays. (I spoke with him this morning, he’s already planning next Sunday’s dinner.) As someone who has descended from formerly enslaved people, we know how to make due with what we have. We know how to be resourceful and how to season and flavor food, and how to make it feel like the only joy we have in the world. A few of my favorites include:
Now I know most people are thinking, “Really?” And my answer is, “YES!”A marinated, slow cooked piece of beef with a delicious thick gravy, with tons of mushrooms and onions. It’s really the one thing that I can’t eat enough of and that takes me back to a happy place. I’ve tried, but I’m not good at replicating this. My dad is the master of it. It pairs really well with homemade mashed potatoes. Once the potatoes are gone though, I like to warm the leftover meat and then place it, with tons of gravy, on top of white bread as an open-faced sandwich. Yum. Day going terrible? Not anymore!
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
A holiday isn’t a holiday with baked macaroni and cheese. We would have it during cold weather holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but there is also always the chance that baked macaroni and cheese could appear at a summer cookout. It’s everyone’s favorite! The cheese must be yellow. There must be a cheese sauce that is poured on top of the noodles, mixed in and then more cheese sprinkled on top. Sometimes, there are breadcrumbs on top but if so, let them be roasted garlic or Italian flavored! I recall being a kid and begging my parents to get Kraft Cheese and Macaroni, shunning the delicious baked stuff my parents made so that I could be more like my friends. It took me to being a teenager before I realized I had gotten it mixed up… Powdered cheese packets are not tasty.
Sweet Potato Pie
I don’t really care for pie, but can enjoy sweet potato pie. When I got out on my own, I thought I’d try my hand at making it for myself. Looking for a recipe, I happened upon one from Paula Deen, who was a trusted cooking expert at the time, before I found out about her racist shenanigans. Her recipe calls for extra eggs to make a meringue to place on top, but that is blaspheme, so I don’t use that. I also modified the recipe to use pre-made graham cracker crust, which adds to the sweet, nutty flavor of the sweet potato filling. Served warmed a’la mode, its the perfect way to finish off any big holiday dinner or to make you feel better after an awful day at work.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Not all cookies are created equal. My friend used to bring cookies in to work and they tasted like love. They were light, fluffy and filled with butter. After a few years of enjoying these cookies on special occasions or whenever she got the baking bug, I mustered up the courage to ask her for the recipe. She gave it to me! And while they don’t taste the same as when she makes them, they are still amazing and everyone who eats one raves about them. These cookies remind me of my friend and always make me feel a little happier when there are some in my lunch bag or waiting for me at home.
I love hot tea, though it isn’t really even the taste of it that is comforting. The act of preparing and consuming hot tea is something that I have found to calm me when I am having an anxiety attack or getting upset about something. Its something that is fairly easy to get and is my go-to advice to tell my friends when they are getting worked up about something, possibly akin boiling water, per home deliveries on television. Warming water to the right temperature, choosing your tea (if you have options), seeping the tea, slowing focusing on holding a hot cup of tea and cooling it enough to consume it, it all takes focus and thought. Its a great way to regain control of yourself. It has also been a great way for me to spoil myself, as almost anyone with small children will tell you, drinking a hot cup of anything while its still hot is pretty rare!
We are hoping to focus on self care this month! I want us to treat self care like a discipline, essential to our well being, and feed ourselves fully. Let’s discuss self care as a practice and share how we are, each of us, doing it. In this way we open ourselves up to new possibilities and ways to feed ourselves! We are looking forward to your feedback.
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