Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Let me bring you a plate.

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.

1 comment:

DRoss said...

Cranky, you're amazing! I also have southern-slash-hill-people in my background. As a teenager, I was ashamed of the Butler-county colloquialisms that brought so much color and insight to the stories and commentary I heard from my aunts, mother, mammaw and cousins growing up. I treasure those turns of phrase now. There is one that's especially dear to me, that my own daughters hear me repeat on a regular basis. My mammaw (mama's mama) sometimes saw folks she cared about stay tangled up in clearly bad relationships that they just would not (or could not) walk away from. When reflecting on that, she would always say, "Them that can't see has to feel." (The word can't must be pronounced "cain't" or the statement loses a lot of its punch.) If it's possible to pack more bad grammar and hard-won wisdom along with pun and ironic metaphor in another 7 words, I'd love to hear them. I pray that the statement affects my girls the way it affected me. I heard it as a wise woman's encouragement to respect myself enough to be mindful of how others treat me, to recognize when I'm being repeatedly used or disrespected, and to find the determination to walk away from the person /relationship, be it romantic or platonic. And that's not even getting to the food, which was as fortifying as the conversation! We and our daughters are incredibly blessed to have had strong, smart women in our backgrounds. XO - DR