The movie “Julie and Julia” is one of my very favorites because:
1) It is about a blogger gone famous and who of us in the blogosphere hasn’t dreamed about that?
2) It is about Julia Child–who lived a really, really cool life filled with adventure and love!
3) It made me think of my mom, my mom who loved to cook and worked hard to master Julia’s cookbook. The recipes prepared, joked about, or ruined during the course of the film reminded me of home. Am I the only one out there who ate aspic growing up? I wish I could have shared that movie with my mom.
I don’t mind cooking, but I’m certainly not my mom in the kitchen, and Julia would likely cringe at the lack of butter used in my home. Nonetheless, I do cook. Sometimes, even from scratch.
A few weeks back, I stood, rolling raw hamburger around in my hands. I was teaching C how to make meatballs, nothing “special”, just meatballs, but a special treat for the teen who is gluten-free and can no longer indulge in the ease of Costco’s frozen meatballs. Her sister hung out at the computer desk nearby. The three of us chatted away, and I shared memories of their grandma who loved to cook. As C placed a meatball on the tray, she asked me about my favorite food prepared by Grandma. There were many, but neither of my top two came from Julia’s cookbooks. I answered: her chile rellenos and her bread. “Grandma,” I explained, “made killer chile rellenos, but it was her bread that I remember most. Fresh baked bread several times a week.”
(A wanted to know if she used a bread machine like me–or did she “Do it right?” Before her sister and I went gluten-free, I made my bread by hand, the method still preferred by the change-resistant, younger one.)
C’s question was a fun one. It took me back in time. I remembered details of my mom’s big kitchen and the food and fun shared there. I asked C to tell me what her favorite food or meal is that I prepare. She answered me with silence. Dead silence. And, an embarrassed grin.
I stood, dumbfounded. Panic filled my heart and denial raced through my thoughts. Seriously? I cook. I do. I may have relied on the fast and easy nachos a bit too often recently, but I do cook. I even been known to enjoy it and make large meals. Complete meals. Though my cookies and candies may be requested more often than any dinner I make, I cook dinners, too! Sometimes.
I waited. She had nothin’. I turned to her younger sister, “What about you? What’s your favorite?” “Your bread, when you made it by hand,” she answered.
Guilt squeezed out the panic and I pleaded for crumbs of validation. “Really?” I asked, “Has it been that long?” (It hadn’t, but I had been played by the masters: teens.)
In the last few weeks, I turned my energies to the kitchen. No child will leave this house without a food-based, favorite memory. There’s been calzones, focaccia, homemade vegetable soup, stew, lasagna, chicken with peanut sauce and (of course) chili. There’s been homemade waffles, pancakes, puddings, even (failed) gluten-free cinnamon rolls. And all before the big, big feast this week.
Yep, I had been played. But, it has been worth it. I have cooked with intention; the intention of making memories. For the previous 5 and half years,my husband’s work hours ran long and late most nights. The unpredictability of his return home made it difficult to schedule “dinner time” and the girls and I often finished our meals before he got home. It was easy to get lazy in the kitchen when I knew we wouldn’t all be sitting down together. It was easy to sit on the couch, eating in front of the TV or at the computer. We all ate alone. The family dinner table collected more dust than crumbs.
Thankfully, my husband now works for a company that wants everyone heading home by 5:15 and the girls and I can expect to hear his key in the door by 5:45. Dinnertime is family time, once again. We sit together. We laugh. We talk. We create memories.There is renewed excitement to bond together. If you feed them, they will come. And, come hell or high water, my children will be able to name a favorite dish before they leave this house!
How do you bond as a family?