Cooking as a Gift of Love
I had the privilege of having my great grandmother in my life until I was 19 years old. Born in 1899, Isabelle Penny was a remarkable woman and loved by all who knew her. Even those not related to her affectionately called her “Mommo” and she was gifted at making all who came into her presence feel welcomed and loved. One of the ways she did that was in her loving preparation of food. I have fond memories of the special silverware and dishes she had for me when I came to visit. She was also known for her angel food cake, baked holiday oysters and relish trays. Most of all, everyone who knew her could easily attest to the fact that she was ALWAYS trying to feed everyone. Food was a tangible way she could demonstrate her love for others.
Passing the Baton
Over the years I’ve grown to love cooking and entertaining; and I’m noticing that, like “Mommo,” I love to feed people and see them happy and satisfied. I derive immense pleasure from seeing others enjoy the fruit of my labor. Thus several years ago I started cooking Thanksgiving dinner. It was an amazing opportunity for me to show love to those in our family through some tasty, delectable dishes. When we were living in Pennsylvania it was not unusual to have nearly 30 people in attendance as all my extended family would attend. Since moving back to California our local extended family is much smaller so we often have only about 10-12 people. But I still labor over the menu each year; writing it out, including some annual favorites, but taking great care not to duplicate everything so that there is the opportunity to experiment with a few new items. Much like my beloved great-grandmother, I find much joy in sitting down and seeing others savor something I’ve made for them.
Putting Down the Oven Mitts
This year will be different. We have a friend from South Africa who also happens to cook privately for people, and he made a generous request; he offered to cook our Thanksgiving meal. I’ll do the desserts and perhaps one or two of the other staples, but he has concocted a fantastic menu that I’m sure all present will thoroughly enjoy.
My husband, who feels that the stress of the holiday meal preparations is not worth it, is thrilled that someone else is going to take up the oven mitts and shoulder all the work. He has encouraged me to enjoy that fact that someone else is doing everything and we get to simply enjoy the feast. I don’t quite share his perspective.
Control or Giving Up the Opportunity to Give to Others?
You see, even though there is stress associated with the planning and preparation, it is a gift I’m able to give those I love. One that I lovingly and meticulously craft for those most important in my life. So despite the wonderful gift our friend is bestowing upon us this year, I’m finding myself struggling with the fact that I’m not able to be the giver. I know I’ll get over it and enjoy the amazing fare, not to mention I will have less stress, but it will be different. I’ll be more of a spectator instead of the initiator; on the receiving instead of the giving end.
It’s Not Really About the Food
- Dig a little deeper — is it really about the food, or about the loss of that piece of their lives?
- Help them feel as though they are involved in the menu-writing process. Perhaps let them help you prepare their signature dish. Then advertise it to the community so everyone knows with whom it originated.
- Incorporate as much choice as possible. Empower your residents to feel as though they can still decide as much as possible even if they can’t personally prepare.
- Finally, seek to embrace their traditions whenever possible. This may mean holiday celebrations and other important dates. You won’t be able to catch them all, but you can put things in place that will show your desire to respect those who have long served delicious food and special recipes to those whom they love.
In the meantime I’ll be trying my best to step away from the turkey leg and all other items I won’t be in charge of preparing this year. Wish me success!