I haven’t been doing a whole lot of writing these days—at least not the kind of writing that captures a story and a recipe with a clear beginning, middle and end.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and I’ve been battling with two ideas that play out a little like this:
1. How can I write when there’s so much news to consume? Is now really the right time to be talking about food?
2. What if people are exhausted by the news and need a little escape? Is there something I could offer as a break?
I keep coming back to this notion that food brings people together. Sure, it brings us all to a table, but how many times have you sat at a table and felt uncomfortable? Maybe you’ve felt awkward at an office gathering, or maybe your classmates made fun of your lunch in grade school. Maybe you’ve been provoked at a family dinner or holiday, or maybe you have a special diet that no one wants to accommodate. If you’ve experienced any one of these (me? 3/4), you probably don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling about settling our differences at the table.
So how DOES food bring us together?
To me, it’s about a story.
Last week I posted a link on my Facebook page to Pati Jinich’s Sopa de Lima recipe. I saw it on a recent episode of her show, where she traveled to Valladolid and tasted bowl after bowl with her producer. At the end of the episode, Pati came back to her home kitchen and showed us how to make our own. She took a bite and nearly shed a tear because the soup was that good to her. It comforted her and transported her, which in turn, did the same for me. I was on my couch, tears welling in my eyes because someone I’d never met was having a meaningful food experience.
I think I needed to watch this episode, because before that night, I’d been in a bit of a cooking lull. I’d been busy with work and feeling uninspired from getting sucked into the news, so most of my husband’s and my dinners centered on big batches with leftovers. I don’t even think I turned on my stove a whole lot. Just the microwave for reheating.
As I sat on my couch watching Pati sip her soup, I thought, Yes, I need to feel this again! I’m still working on it, but I found a little joy in baking #88 challah bread last week (Go, Bennett!), and today I’ve got a batch of Jamie Oliver’s black dal simmering away. I’m finding comfort in other people’s recipes, and I think it has to do with wanting to experience someone else’s story instead of my own.
I hope that the next time we talk, the world will feel a little less crazy. In the meantime, what do you say about cooking, eating—or even just learning about a dish you’ve never tried before? I promise, I won’t judge if you shed a tear on your couch.