Food is a language that can feel so full of meaning but sometimes it leaves us without words. When the world is spinning mad or our lives are too, talking about food feels like an indulgent escape. Why does speaking about food seem like we are diminishing problems? As if by elevating food language – referring to ingredients or sourcing or nutrition concerns, then we can talk about cookies when we are hurting. Or we apologize for talking about the cookies.
Food is one of the most intimate things we share with each other. Maybe that’s why we look for cooking metaphors to soften our exchanges, to help digest, so to speak, our experiences.
But we don’t need to digest anything – not our thoughts or actions. We don’t have to wrap food in words. We can present someone with a cookie as we give a hug and that is enough. We can let food speak for itself. Can we listen? I mean, can we receive?
Listening to someone’s care for us is hard. In our society, which is so individualistic, I feel we only learn the art of receiving when we need to, when we have to. Giving suits us. It is easier.
Either way, food speaks. Food gives us agency. The closest person in my life, my mom, spoke one language – food. I watched my mother, who had only 4th grade education to make sense of the world, articulate and connect not with articles, poetry, debate, but with a slice of “bolo,” cake. Her cooking contains the bridge, lessons, the meaning.
I wonder if that is why my mom would watch us eat our meals. Not only her, but my aunts as well. Her message was understood when I took that bite. The attention was not on what was said but how we ate, how we came back for more, how we received the next dish.
The world is full of tragedies and crimes. Our lives are spinning, but when we break bread, or open a jar of cinnamon. We stop and pay attention.
We should not apologize for “speaking food” to each other when we are hurting. It may feel trivial but food as a language, as a vocabulary of emotions and contact, is universal.
Spiced Sourdough Wholemeal Rye Cookies
for ice cream sandwiches as requested from my oldest child
1 stick of butter room temperature
½ cup of raw sugar
¼ cup molasses
½ cup of sourdough starter
2 cups of wholemeal rye
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
Ferment on the counter half a day and/or several days in the fridge.
Bake 375F for 12 minutes or a few extra minutes if you like crunchy.