46: Cooking Up Love

46: Cooking Up Love

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Cooking Up Love

Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.

~Alan D. Wolfelt

I was three or four years old when Mom placed a miniature rolling pin in my hands. It was a smooth wooden cylinder with tiny red handles, much smaller than the one Mom used to make cookies or roll out piecrust. My younger brother and I sat at the kitchen table, its surface lightly dusted with flour. She taught us how to flatten balls of dough and push cookie cutters in the dough to make shapes. Eventually we’d form the dough into a ball and flatten it again and again. Sometimes we would roll out the dough with our hands and create dough-shaped snakes. We felt important helping Mom in the kitchen. She involved us because she wanted us to take an interest in making food, but more than that, she knew food is about love. Food brings people together.

Some of my fondest memories growing up were coming home after school to the smell of freshly baked banana bread in Mom’s kitchen. A homemade treat was always waiting for my brother and me after a long day—a chocolate chip cookie, a cherry pie, or homemade potato rolls. The food seemed to say, “I love you, and I hope you had a good day at school.”

When we were sick, she made homemade chicken and noodles and cared for us while we lay on the couch all day, cozied up with a blanket and a bubbly cup of 7 Up.

After I gave birth to my twin boys and life became chaotic, Mom came to our home with a comforting smile and a roasting pan full of Salisbury steak, homemade mashed potatoes, and gravy. She brought along a bowl of fresh fruit, a few dozen cookies, and an apple pie. After spending three days in the hospital and coming home feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, I’d never tasted anything so good. Mom knew we wouldn’t have much time to cook, so she brought another dish we stored in the freezer for an emergency. It didn’t last long.

Whether it’s a baptism or a birthday party, Mom brings a hot pan of macaroni and cheese, baked beans, and sweet corn. I don’t have to ask. Occasionally after hauling a load of food into our house, she will disappear outside, open up her car trunk, and pull out a veggie tray and dip from a cooler, along with a thermos of coffee to serve our guests. “Oh, if I bring all this stuff, you don’t have to do as much work,” she says.

My boys love going to Grandma’s house because her kitchen is stocked with treats. This summer when we visited her acreage, her candy dish overflowed. A pumpkin pie rested on the counter. With all the goodies around, I was mortified when my boys asked for ice cream. Mom didn’t even flinch. She served three huge bowls of ice cream topped with chocolate syrup and sliced strawberries, and my boys dug in. It was 10:30 in the morning.

When my husband and I went away overnight and Mom stayed at our house to babysit, she brought a double batch of cut-out cookies. Her cookies always match the season: leaves and pumpkins for fall, Christmas trees and snowmen for winter, and flowers for summer. They are all decorated beautifully with colored frosting and sprinkles. When we returned home a day and a half later, my sons reported they had eaten all the cookies. Not even a crumb remained.

“Grandma said next time she will need to bring a triple batch,” my son said with a grin. Mom laughed and said she was glad they didn’t go to waste.

Mom filled my pantry with treats while I was gone: cake mixes, peanut butter, and potato chips. She even bought ham for sandwiches. My freezer is full of her apples, already sliced in three-cup portions, which is convenient for pie making. She brought twelve freezer bags of sliced apples and said I can use the apples to make one pie per month for the next year. And that’s what I plan to do—using her prize-winning piecrust recipe.

Mom brings food to elderly friends, invites the neighbors in for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, and shows up with enough food to feed an army when families are grieving. It’s what she does to show she cares.

When my grandma passed away, Mom invited people to her home after the service. We ate sandwiches, told stories, laughed, cried, and devoured Texas sheet cake brownies. The food and fellowship nourished our souls.

At times Mom has struggled to express her emotions or to say the words, “I love you.” It’s not easy for her. Even so, I have never doubted her deep love for my family and me. I find it in my pantry and in my freezer. Love is her decorated cookies and her frozen apple slices. Food sustains us and comforts us. Mom loves by doing. She loves by cooking, baking, and sharing with others. I am grateful for the ways she fills us up with her kind of love.

~Tyann Sheldon Rouw

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