Food is love.
I've often heard it said but never really experienced it until the outpouring of food-love I received in the weeks following my shoulder surgery. My friends and co-workers, knowing that providing healthy food with one arm for a growing swimmer could be a challenge, kept a meal train going for me that included homemade specialties, our favorite carry-out dinners, and restaurant gift cards. I didn't have to prepare a dinner on my own on a weeknight until I started weaning from the sling. It was a gesture from those closest to me that on more than one occasion made me so grateful I could (and did) cry.
I come from a southern-slash-hill-people family, so I should have known that food isn't always just food. If I was sick, if I'd gotten my feelings hurt, if I was coming home on break during my difficult first two years of college--I got fed. My mother knew how to soothe my heart by way of my stomach better than anyone.
And when she had prepared for me one of my favorites, be it chicken and noodles, or fried spinach, or a cheeseburger, or even just a sloppy peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she always announced its readiness with the same verbal dinner bell:
Supper's ready. Come fix you a plate.
What a great colloquialism: Fix you a plate. Just that word "fix" implies healing and repair. For either your spirit or your body or perhaps both. It's not just putting food on a piece of ceramic--it's arranging it according to your own needs and personal aesthetics. It's art and medicine all at once.
My mother always said that the food she cooked for other people tasted better than the food she cooked just for herself. In her later years when she lived alone she rarely ate her own cooking, and swore that when she cooked for others, she cooked with joy and love. The proof for her was literally in the pudding. The banana pudding.
Because I am my mother's daughter, my first solo dinner following surgery was homemade chicken noodle soup for my ailing daughter. She came home from school last Wednesday looking pitiful with a spring cold, and she needed love in the form of protein, veggies, and carbs.
She was on my mind as I cut carrots, cubed chicken, and simmered broth. I didn't just sprinkle poultry seasoning into the pot; I poured in a little of my heart as well.
And I'll be damned if that wasn't the best pot of chicken noodle soup I've ever made.
I'm determined to pay forward the kindness of my friends and colleagues. I've brought food to ailing friends and family before, but not as often as I should. I am in debt to those who helped me through a physically tough time, and the debt needs to be paid in chilies and casseroles.
So if you find yourself sick, or in spiritual turmoil, let me know. I'll stop be your house. And I'll bring you a plate.