Today is National Liver & Onions day. To be perfectly honest liver and onions is not my favorite dish. However, whenever I think about liver and onions, I think about Grandma Kamin, my mother’s mother. It was one of those things that she used to enjoy making.
When I was growing up she would invite my mother and I over for a girl’s afternoon and we would drive from Nutley to Jersey City to spend the afternoon with her. We would always start by baking something awesome like rugelach, bobka cake or some other delicious baked good. Then she would begin cooking lunch and all too often it was something she and my mom loved – liver and onions. Honestly, it wasn’t then and isn’t now one of my favorites.
I think my grandmother knew this because she would always have a side dish to go with it that was on my top ten list like pasta. Had she not been keeping kosher, I am sure it would have been macaroni and cheese, but since she did, it was pasta and sauce. She never once said anything to me about the liver and onions. I could eat it with the spaghetti or I could leave it, but I always found myself eating it because it seemed like it was a part of the tradition, besides which I loved my grandmother
It did not dawn on me until years later then there was such an exchange of love at the table. My grandmother and mother shared their love for each other and for liver and onions, something she did not share with other family members. Liver and onion meals were an opportunity for us to create memories together and to share our love for each other. Liver and onions was not as important as the excuse it created for the three of us to spend the afternoon together and for her to teach me her love for baking
Our liver and onion days were never about the meal but about the conversations. It is when I got to see how much she loved my mom, how much she loved me, and how interested she was in getting to know me and passing down to me all her knowledge about birds and baking.
My grandmother and mother have since passed on and I still do not like liver and onions, but thinking about it brings back so many memories. It reminds me baking, my conversations with the 30 plus birds that she had, the giant sunflowers in her backyard, and love and acceptance that was taught to me in her kitchen and at her table. It never mattered to her that I liked or did not like liver and onions, it just mattered that I was her granddaughter.
This morning as I sat here and thought about these memories, I realize she taught me a powerful lesson how about how I invite people to the table in my life and how I love and accept them for who they are, even if we do not find delight in the same dish. Maybe this is how I learned to welcome all into my life even when we do not share the same spiritual beliefs. Maybe this was one of the lessons she had taught me about unconditional love and acceptance. It was just liver and onions, or was it. Maybe she was teaching me to never make people eat something they did not like. Maybe she was teaching me to never force someone to believe something just because I did. Isn’t that part of our unconditional love and acceptance for each other, giving each other the space and the freedom to choose our own journeys, even when it is not ours.