Food is a big deal to me and my family. I mostly grew up in a household of four – my parents, my sister, and myself. If our parents weren’t outside doing yardwork or relaxing watching HGTV, they were in the kitchen. And so were we – either doing homework, practicing an instrument, or just socializing.
My daddy grew up in south Florida with a father who was a very popular African-American chef and who was very well and widely recognized for his culinary talents. Dad picked up on this art and even spent some time as a cook in the military. As a retiree, he often dreamed of opening up his own restaurant or food truck. My family very much so encouraged this idea because we just love his cooking – especially his homemade barbeque sauces and hot sauces. He hasn’t hit this goal yet but for now you can often find him serving soldiers from his mobile meat smoker on Fort Gordon or BBQing for church members at functions. Then mom, she was born and raised on the island of Palau from where she brought to us her traditional dishes – my favorite being pork, chicken, and fish wrapped together in banana leaves, slow-cooked then served with rice and tapioca root. She also spent some of her Army career as a cook. (It is safe to assume they met in the military and married after much courtship.)
We all are definitely a family of foodies. We won’t turn our nose up to a certain culture’s food traditions. We will try anything. Except this one time as a teen I watched my mom eat a small octopus in just one bite at a Japanese spot and Lord I just wasn’t having it!
In college, sadly I didn’t do much cooking myself. I was the “typical” college kid that had fast food, campus food, ate Ramen, or got wings delivered to my apartment late night. (Shout out to Don Corleones Pizza & Wings joint on Lanier Drive!)
Now as an adult I think back to the structure of my household (especially when considering a mate), one of those major pillars of the home being food. It brings me joy when I can get together with friends and have a potluck or to sit in someone’s backyard spening the day grilling it up or to try a new recipe at home from Pinterest (whether nail or fail). Why is it so important to me? Why does it make me so happy?
I believe food brings people together. As a kid my favorite holiday was always Thanksgiving. I would’ve picked Thanksgiving over Christmas and my own birthday! I still would. On Thanksgiving, people take a break from their busy worlds and come together over a big meal. It isn’t about one person or about spending money on gifts. It’s about everybody. People are more willing to go out of their way to come together, even from far distances. There is laughter, raw conversation, and pure fun…undeniable union…there’s love.
I have to have friends and especially a mate who understands that. If you don’t get food, you don’t get me. I am actually appalled that there are still adults out there who havent had the opportunity to truly love on food. Or they’ve had the chance but they still choose fast food over homemade food…which is equivalent to me as choosing CONVENIENCE OVER LOVE. Eating take-out food most likely wont teach your children how to set the table and serve each other the way preparing a home-cooked meal would. Won’t teach them to clean up after themselves or how to choose from different food groups, etc.
Speaking of choosing food, am I the only one who still believes in this “old-fashioned” idea: parents include vegetables on your dinner plate or make a dish you just don’t like…if you don’t like it, you don’t have a choice. You’d better finish eating it or you go to bed hungry. Lol! Boy, me and Brussels sprouts did NOT get along. I tried the trick of chewing it up to a mush and hiding it in my balled-up napkin. Only worked for so long.
I could go on and on about how much healthier and cost-efficient eating at home could be versus eating out all the time. But then I’d be shifting my topic moreso toward one of saving money or eating better. Neh, this is about unity.
Another way that food brings people together is in the community. Until you volunteer at a soup kitchen or donate food to a homeless shelter, until you see the look on the face of a needy child or mother, you don’t know the joy of giving. I remember my mom dropped Jade and I off at a food drive building in downtown Augusta one summer and told us to help the staff for a few hours. They had us sorting canned goods for what seemed like all day with only one snack break. I kind of had an attitude. I didn’t let it show of course, but I remember feeling some type of way. Like, Why did she drop us off here at some dusty warehouse? It’s hot!
My mom was like that. She would make us do things or establish house rules and not explain the purpose or importance of them. I don’t agree with it but that’s her child-rearing style and I love her. She was the do-what-I-say-because-I-said-so type. It made me quite the rebel. If she would have just explained to us as preteens that we were giving back to the community and that it was for a purpose, we would have served with tender love instead of throwing cans of green beans from box to box. And maybe I wouldn’t have gotten mad when she made us take the trash bags to the dumpster at the close of church functions when all the other kids were still playing. Like, Why am I picking up people’s paper plates and dirty napkins when everybody else’s kids are running around playing tag and what not.
What all this boils down to is that the making and the serving of food is love… And if you haven’t already heard of it, Dixie® launched a movement last year with the hashtag #DarkforDinner which I absolutely fell in love with. They want to break the trend and remove the electronic distractions from the traditional setting of the dinner table to get families to gather for the meal and remember that the focus should be on each other and not things. Check it out below: