Why is it that we all end up in the kitchen together when we gather for a meal? There seems to be a universal pull toward the kitchen. Good food, deep love, and hearty laughter become tastes of heaven to the hungry ’round our tables.
Food is perhaps one of the most commonly used metaphors when God wants to tell us something meaningful and eternal. From forbidden fruit, to manna, to loaves and fishes, to bread and wine . . . we could follow the thread of God’s Unfolding Story by going from food to food, drink to drink, meal to meal in passage after passage.
Maybe that’s why there are so many hidden layers of meaning when we stir a pot of Mama’s chili, or cut into a ripe red watermelon – and find our mind transported to picnics in the hot, verdant summers of childhood. Cooking engages every sense: the taste of homemade peach ice cream, the smell of sweet corn, the sounds of steak sizzling on the grill, the hard, smooth feel of a good crisp apple in the hand, the arresting beauty of fresh garden veggies artfully arranged on the lopsided ceramic plate lovingly created at age nine. Food sears the chapters of our lives into memory.
This is why, when we feed others, we are nourishing them in a myriad of surprising and memorable ways. We never know when that gooey grilled cheese sandwich or steaming bowl of basil-tomato soup we serve today will go down as something more – a comforting memory, forever sealed in the heart of someone we love.
I had a great mentor in my own mother. Warmth and love poured from her kitchen, with the comforting sounds of coffee percolating as background music. I watched the weekly ritual of Mama – dressed in her high heels, Sunday dress and apron – popping a roast in the oven – big enough to serve any surprise company after church. Sometimes I’d accompany her as she carried a casserole to someone who just had a baby, or lost a loved one, and marvel at the natural ease at which she knew exactly what to say or do to cheer or comfort.
What I learned in essence from my mother was that I had a power to ease pain and bring joy to others using the tools lying around my own kitchen.
The older I get the more I believe the purpose of our lives here is to offer healing and blessing to whoever God drops in our path, with whatever he’s given us. Sometimes that is shared laughter over life’s craziness; other times it’s a warm hug and a prayer; and many times, for me, it is serving a plate of something delicious and fragrant, seasoned with plenty of love.
Becky Johnson and her daughter Rachel, have co-authored two books together: Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full Night’s Sleep and We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook (both published with Zondervan). They also blog at www.laughcrycook.com and www.thenourishedmama.com, respectively.