For me, and clearly for my mother as well, good food is synonymous with many other positive, life changing experiences and philosophies. Family, environmental sustainability, health, community, social responsibility, and happiness to name a few. I’ve always known this to be true and over the years it has become more and more paramount and apparent in my life. In interviewing my mother and explicitly addressing the evolution of her experiences with parenting and food, these foundational concepts were made explicit and laid bare.
Mostly focusing on her experiences with me and my sisters when we were young children, my mother expressed her gratitude for having children who were not picky and thus easy to please. She recalls us playing the “If you could only eat 5 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?”-game with us when we were quite young. I was pleased when she reported that my response was often green beans and pears. While assuring me that my love for good food was intrinsic, when I asked her if she thought pickiness in children was a result of the behavior of parents, she declined to take any credit for my predispositions. Instead, she emphasized the importance of structure in our lives and how, by engaging us in conversation about what we wanted to eat, she involved us in our own experience with food. She said that while she took into account what we wanted, her initial years as a parent forced her to think of food in terms of what was healthy.
After my parent’s divorce when I was 4, she related that the main shift in our eating habits was that we finally were able to eat with her. As a young child, my father would work late and so my mother would eat with him, feeding us our “kids meal” at a time more befitting our internal body clocks. So when she began eating with us, in her own home, we began eating “grown-up” food. Couscous salad with garbanzo beans, cucumber, and tomato, pasta salads with veggies and sausage, soups, and most importantly lots of vegetables.
It was interesting to her my mother discuss her childhood experiences with family dinners, as every dinner was family dinner. In a similar way, I was raised with the understanding that dinner was an affair where everyone sat down together exactly when dinner was ready (no waiting five minutes to finish whatever task was at hand). I believe this instilled in me a strong association between family and food. To this day, the two are inseparable. You cement relationships, create family, and celebrate connections through sharing food. Over the years I’ve observed that once you know someone you can determine whether or not family dinners were a part of their upbringing. In a way it has became one of the ways I measure people for if they were raised to value family the way I do, we have a solid basis of understanding.
My mother’s attentiveness and awareness to the needs of her children and their relationship to food has served me well over the years. I could never thank her enough for, whether her efforts were conscious or intuitive, she has instilled in me a passion and love that is enduring and one that has shaped how I view my relationship with the earth, with other people, and with myself. So, thank you, Mom.