I’m an avid reader who also loves to cook. It started when I had my first apartment right out of high school. There I was at age 18 living in my own and eating cake for dinner. I remember calling my mother from work and asking her to tell me some recipes for the food I had grown up on. I typed them on index cards as she recited them and began experimenting with cooking.
Fast forward to my life as a newly married young mother. I still relied on those trusted index cards, but I began experimenting a bit. Unfortunately, my kids like me, didn’t like too much variety and even less vegetables than I did. It became easier to fry up some cutlets and make some macaroni and cheese.
Sunday dinners were different though. Every Sunday my parents would come out to our home and spend the day. The day always revolved around the family meal. In the beginning I used mom’s recipes, but as the years went by I began trying out new recipes. My interest in cooking grew and I began collecting recipes and cookbooks. Sunday dinners, laughter, football, wine and family. Life was so complete and very simple back then.
When my mom started showing signs of Alzheimer’s it really rocked my sense of normalcy. Dad had just been diagnosed with colon cancer and mom was extremely confused. Sunday visits continued but were forever changed. It was hard for mom to hold a conversation and even harder for me to deal with that. My meals became even more elaborate as I sought to escape my new reality. My cutting board provided comfort and a beautiful distraction. I’d cut and chop and cook away while mom watched, or sat with dad. The meals provided comfort to us all. Comfort food took on a whole new meaning.
As mom’s disease progressed she stopped cooking. Initially I would cook and bring food over to them, but living an hour away made this hard. I’d freeze food whenever I could but it was clear dad needed to learn how to cook. Sunday dinners now became Sunday cooking lessons. Dad was a quick study and he too discovered the joys of this form of escapism. He made delicious roasts and healthy meals for them each day and proudly talked of cooking. He talked recipes with his Dunkin morning crew and anyone who’d listen. He made pies from scratch and began collecting recipes.
Food, I’ve come to realize, holds the stories of our lives when you stop and look for them. Memories of times spent around the table are often the warmest kind. I’ve recently been binge reading narrative cookbooks, like A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table . It’s a new genre for me, but one that’s continually pulling me in. I’m finding comfort in the pages, knowing that others have captured so beautifully what I discovered. Our lives revolve around food, our laughter and tears can be found there. Comfort food gets its name from the comforting memories it evokes. Whenever I smell onions roasting I’m transcended back to those Sunday dinners of long ago. My mom browning onions for a Sunday roast. What a beautiful aroma to wake to as a child.
My Sunday table has grown smaller these days. My kids are grown and off on their own. I still cook this important family meal and make care packages for dad or my son. Early Sunday mornings always find me planning my menu for the week. I no longer make Sunday roasts as it’s now just the three of us. We love our Sunday meatballs and football these days. Traditional German roasts are to be enjoyed with family or friends around the table. Thankfully, Thanksgiving is just around the corner.