While away, I have asked Lin from The Absence of Alternatives to be a guest blogger. She has graciously agreed. She is funny and honest and has a very interesting perspective on life that is contagious. I have no doubt that you will enjoy her blog post. Please take the time to visit her blog at www.secretinnerlife.com. I can promise that you will not be disappointed.
The Simple Grace of Sharing a Meal
Velva has kindly invited me to be a guest blogger here. I am honored to be part of this wonderful place, her private heaven that she so selflessly shares with us. There are many blogs out there that celebrate the art of cooking. What drew me to Velva's and soon made me a fan, is her belief in and her unabashed celebration of eating as a ritual through which we become closer with each other.
I was struck the first time I read it on the banner "sustaining our bonds with one another through the simple grace of sharing a meal" Could this Southern belle be Chinese?
I thought, because that is the Chinese attitude towards food. Well, we don't really put it in words so poetic. We say cryptic things like "A person is as important as the Emperor when s/he is sitting down for a meal" THAT is also the attitude towards meals many cultures hold: the French, the Itailian, the Spanish, and so on.
When a friend of mine lamented about a girlfriend's betrayal by invoking this "rule" literally, in her litany, "But she has come to dinner with me and my mother. SHE BROKE WITH US!", I learned that in some socio/cultural circles, sharing a meal, "breaking bread", has an even deeper symbolic meaning: you have come to my house to share a meal with my family. By this act, we mutually agree, implicitly, that we are now friends. You are now accepted into the "circle of trust".
The simple joy of enjoying great food and great friends. The ritual. The community. The circle of trust. These are things that I have not been able to recreate in the suburban Midwest. No. There is no Joy Luck Club in our lfe.
I agonized over what I could possibly contribute to Velva's foodblog. I cannot cook. I have two left hands which render my dexterity to Zero. (Think: sewing, knitting, soap carving, video games, Voguing). I feed my children boxed Macaroni and Cheese, and all sorts of processeed, frozen food. I eat instant noodles from a pot over the kitchen sink on some nights. As a feast, I treat myself by using a proper bowl, and drink a glass of vodka and cranberry juice.
I know. I am an abomination of a Chinese woman. I let the 5000 years of historical grandeur down.
I don't even try any more: I stress out over the sheer number of foods my children will not touch. My 6 year-old will basically only eat food that is white: white bread, plain pasta, white rice, white pizza. Nothing can touch each other. (He did ask me to include the fact that he LOVES broccoli. "So the other mothers will be jealous of you" Steamed for 6 minutes. No more, no less). My husband, though he would certainly deny this vehemently, holds a puritanical attitude towards eating: I Hunger, I eat. I leave. Or is that Roman actually?
Once I spent 3 hours making a special dish, from scratch. After he finished the meal, my husband said, "It is very good" . "But I probably don't need to have it again".
When we visited my family, the irony in my life was further magnified since my brother and his son are both accomplished chefs in Japanese cuisine. As plates, after plates, of skillfully made and artfully arranaged dishes were presented to my "American family", I gave my boys THE death stare to make sure they keep their polite expressions on. They would end up eating only the white rice and horrifying my brother or nephew and his entire staff. I would end up eating 99% of the food. Going home is VERY TRAUMATIC to my waistline, let me just put it this way....
I dug through the pictures of my trip back home this March and realized: My poor kids! In two weeks they were dragged to Japanese restaurants four times! Instead of eating the food, they pose for their pictures to be taken with the food. That itself has become a ritual.
There are also tons and tons of pictures of them goofing off with their uncles and aunts, their cousins, and their maternal granparents. Even the chefs and the wait staff.
Perhaps, the point is not how delicious the food is. Perhaps the point is "It's the people, stupid"