I look back at the meals we grew up with and the plates of food, which acted better than any penicillin ever been prescribed.
Meals like this are better than any medication and better than any anti-depressant. They are the meals we grew up with. They were the meals we sat through, together, like family.
I think back on special dinners like this. Everyone was happy because we were about to eat our favorite dish. Mom served the food. We all sat. No one spoke because the food was too good to be interrupted with conversation. The only thing anyone said is, “MMmm,” because the food was just that good.
I was young when my grandmother passed. I was 11 or 12 the last time I saw her. My grandmother died the summer before my 13th birthday.
I wish I could say I remember more than just the simple random things.
I remember watching a television show with her. I remember the first time I ever noticed the colors of sunrise was with my Grandmother. She introduced me to the colors of dawn. But my strongest memory is a memory from my last visit. It was a morning in Florida.
At the time, I was not much of an eater. I was skinny as ever and far from adventurous when it came to trying new or different foods.
I was picky and always complaining when it came to meals that were out of my comfort zone.
In the memory I have of my last morning with my Grandmother, she made me a Challah bagel with cream cheese and minced lox.
“But I don’t like lox,” I said.
“But this lox is special,” said my Grandmother.
God, she was kind.
She was so gentle and delicate. No one loves anyone like grandmothers do. Her hands were soft, like a warm chenille blanket, and they had a texture that was softer than rose petals.
Her voice was calming to me; soothing, like a bedtime story that could happily send any child whenever she chose. She was comforting as ever, grandmotherly, and perfect.
When my Grandmother explained, “This lox is special,” I believed every word.
I believed this because of the love in her voice. I remember that bagel to this day, which is close to 40 years later.
We ate on the small balcony of her building at 100 Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.
I remember the warmth of the Florida sun. I recall sound of the nearby church bells that rang out on the hour. I remember the chime, which followed by a gong that toned according to the number of hours.
To this day, I have not tasted a bagel as good as that one. I have never felt the sun on my face the same way or experienced a breakfast time to match this one.
I keep this in my memory bank. I think back upon this because I love the memory. After all, memory is our only way to hold the things that have long since passed. This is also how we keep each other alive.
There are other meals throughout my life, which I recall, and I recall them well, clearly, as if I could see the room as it was.
I can relive the moment and remember the plates. I can see The Old Man sitting at the head of the table. I can see where my brother Dave sat and where Mom sat in relation to me. I can see it clearly.
I see it all.
I remember Mom made the best mashed potatoes. Nothing tasted like Mom’s. I remember what seems like the first time she ever served them.
I can see mom spooning the serving onto my plate. I can see the breaded chicken cutlets, the brown gravy, and even me, a finicky eater that would never finish my food.
Mom would smile on nights like because I ate everything. I finished all my food and went back for seconds.
Food is love.
I know this.
I know there are times when sadness hits. I know people seek medicine to help them remedy the sadness. And I get it I really do.
I remember an old friend of mine at a rough time in his life. His mother brought him tomato soup.
“It’s the only thing that makes me feel better, Mom’s tomato soup” he said.
Sometimes we fight too often. We argue. We overlook the simple things. We take life for granted. We forget the good things we share together. Sometimes, life knocks us back a few paces. We go through heartache and sadness. We experience loss. We forget to love with all of our might.
But do you know what helps?
Share a meal with someone you love.
Taste new things together. Don’t be afraid to try.
Experience new tastes. Or better yet, create a meal together. Pay special attention to the ingredients. And I say this specifically for a reason.
Truth is the minced lox my Grandmother served is no different than any regular lox. Except, her lox was special.
Because it was made by her for me. That’s how.
Her lox was special because it was made with love.
Sometimes, when the tension between us loved ones is too much; it’s a good idea to end the storm by creating, serving, and enjoying a good meal together.
This does not mean the meal has to be an over the top, intricately detailed thing. The meal could be as simple as finger foods.
Finger foods are great.
Cold cuts are great too. Prosciutto, hard salamis, roasted peppers, cheeses, oils and dipping sauces.
Fun meals like this are excellent ways to draw us close together. This is also an excellent way to create a loving memory because everything prepared was prepared with love.
The key ingredient is to nurture each part of the meal; this way, we are creating together.
We are making something together, eating together, enjoying, and at the time of service, the only thing we can say together is, “MMmmm,” because the food is just that good.
Same as anyone else on Project Earth, I have lost family members and loved ones. Some of them are lost so long that I can hardly recall the sound of their voice. It almost feels like I can’t hear them anymore.
Sometimes, I think about the family dinners we used to have. I think about the sound of forks clanking against the plates. I think of the dishes being passed around the table. I think about the sound of us all eating and drinking and sitting together. And suddenly, I can remember. I can hear them again. My loved ones. I can feel them too.
The best family times are circled around meal times.
So eat together.
Feed each other.
I would give you Mom’s recipe (if I could) because her mashed potatoes and chicken cutlets were the best thing in the world.
I’ve tried to recreate them. I’ve come close. I do pretty well actually.
But Mom’s love is Mom’s love.
And hers was the best ingredient.