There is this mystery writer, Sue Grafton, whose books all begin with a letter and a word. For me this week, I have come to discover that H is for healing. I should probably say that Q and L are for healing, but that would not make sense to most people. Well, at least not at first. However, the day after our wedding, I came to realize that food has the ability to help people heal emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Zoë’s cousin Bruce came for the wedding and the day after we had this awesome conversation. You know the kind that linger in your memory for a while and leave you knowing something special just happened between the two of you. It was after some left over home fries and eggs that Bruce began talking to me about his first wife who had died many years ago after a battle with cancer. He talked about how every week she would make him a quiche and lemon drop cookies. As he spoke about them, you could see him remembering the love with which they were prepared, the way the house smelled, the way they tasted and the love he had for this woman.
Then, as his eyes welled up with tears, he looked at me and asked me if I knew how to make them. Quiche and lemon drop cookies. When I told him I did, he asked me if I would make them for him on his next visit. When I told him I would, he came over and gave me this hug like he had never given me before. Just the idea that I would do this for him, moved him beyond words. The only way to let me know how much this meant to him was through a hug. For the rest of his visit, every time he looked at me his eyes would well up. Quiche and lemon drop cookies. Who knew?
So that is what Bruce is getting for Christmas this year as he comes back again this weekend to visit with us – quiche and lemon drop cookies. I am making two quiches. I am making one for him to eat while he is here and one to bring home with him. I am also making him a few dozen lemon drop cookies.
I am not sure why I was so surprised that food could evoke such emotion. There are foods for me that transport me back to memories of relationships with people. Every time I make sweet potato bread, I remember sitting in Ms Jackson’s kitchen as a young girl getting my hair braided and leaning how to cook “soul food.” When somebody makes me stuffed derma, sounds gross doesn’t it, it brings me back to my childhood. It was one of those things my mother only made on special occasions and it was so good. there are a few recipes of my mom’s which transport me back in time like her noodle kugel, bobka cake, or rugelach.
We each have our own food, which reminds us of past or present relationships. Zoë is not a soup kind of woman, but I make this Mexican chicken soup that always makes her feel loved. A friend of mine has this emotional reaction to mashed potatoes. They remind her of her mom who passed away years ago. When she needs to feel connected to her mom, she makes herself some mashed potatoes.
I have found immense wisdom and comfort over a hot bowl of cream of wheat cereal. It was one of the favorite things my mother would make me for breakfast. My son still remembers these simple Muenster cheese and onion sandwiches with mayo on wonder bread that I made for him the year we met. “Nobody can make them like you Mom.” That and my grilled cheese sandwiches.
My friend Sophia has told me stories about how certain foods have helped friends of hers overcome their battles with cancer. So many foods and spices are said to contain healing qualities. So while I have filled our pantry with ginger, lemon, and garlic to help fight infections and promote healing as Zoë battles cancer, this is a very different kind of healing then what happens when food heals a wound, a loss, and helps us grieve. What food or meal helps you heal?