— by Camille
Food and love – they pair together so well, don’t they? Around Valentine’s day, food usually makes an appearance. The cliché’s come to mind: heart shaped boxes of chocolates, candlelight dinners, bottles of champagne. So when I asked some friends and family members to share their stories about food and love, I thought I’d have oodles of romantic tales. Instead, time and again, I heard about a different kind of love.
These are stories of fathers and mothers caring for their kids – and in one instance, of a young woman learning to care for herself.
In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s rare that the fancy, multi-course, three star meal actually overshadows the memory of your own mother cooking your favourite food as a child. (The amazing scene in Ratatouille comes to mind when food critic Anton Ego is suddenly transported back to the warmth of his mother’s care through the movie’s namesake dish.)
The simple moments when we were cared for and looked after – or cared for our little ones – through food: these are the moments that really touch us, that stay with us, that nourish us long after our plates are clean. This is food as love.
Here are some lovely short stories that have been shared with me. (Thank you to all who contributed.)
“When my twin daughters were in about 3rd grade, I took some time off teaching and stayed home for a few months. During that time, I remember making simple little breakfasts for my girls. When they came downstairs, I always remembered how delighted they were to see the breakfast table already set. Oranges halved and sectioned, yogurts with fruit, and a bowl of their favourite cereal. It was so simple, yet so meaningful. I realized how important these little gestures were as a mom. And how important is was to be there for them at that time. Just taking the time, to do a little extra… It warms my heart to remember how we all started those mornings.” — Nancy
“Growing up, my mom was impeccable with the food that she made for our family. When you went scouring through the cupboards and the fridge, it was all carob chip and apple sauce muffins, fruit and vegetables, and seed bread from the health food store. Looking back, I love her for that. At the time, I thought it some sort of punishment that she never bought the ‘junk’ cereal. My dad on the other hand could really deliver in terms of candy and things we ‘really shouldn’t be eating’. Whenever my dad would pick me up from my high school boyfriend’s house or from a show or a friend’s or wherever I was, he had two of those little brown paper bags of candy from the store for us to eat. Sometimes a few strips of red licorice. Sometimes a box of Maltesers. We’d talk about the day, and eat candy, and hang out in the car for a little while listening to music, and then go home. I knew that we’d have that time alone if I needed to tell him about a problem and needed his advice. I loved that indulgence: time and penny-candy with Dad. Priceless.” — Colleen
“I can’t stop thinking about my mum – even going through a brutal divorce and trying to support my sister and I, she still spent so much time cooking for us. She was incredibly detailed and followed a recipe exactly putting everything she had into it. Maybe it was her coping, but I know it was her only way to tell us she loved us while she grieved. I used to make fun of her focus on cooking intricate dishes, but now as an adult I love her more for it.” – Kerry
Growing up, every very family dinner – Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving – was never without my Nana’s special coleslaw recipe. At the time, it was just another yummy dish on the table. It didn’t mean ‘love’ to me. Now that she’s gone, and it’s been years now, my Aunt and Uncle make sure we don’t eat our way through a holiday without her coleslaw. It’s kinda like we’re showing her our love by keeping this recipe alive. — Becca
“One of my best valentines days was a valentines day I spent single. I decided that rather than pouting or feeling sorry for myself as a single gal on a day when the world celebrates romantic love, I would make the most of the day by treating myself exactly as I would want to be treated by a boyfriend. It was years ago, but I still remember how I started off my day of pampering, with a perfectly simple but delicious breakfast: Toasted crumpets with boursin cheese, perfectly poached eggs, arugula and creamy, sliced avocado. My favourite breakfast was a perfect way to show love to myself, and the fact that I prepared it as a gift to myself made it that much more special.” — Megan