Sunday, November 6, 2011

Food is Essential to the Culture

When I think about my childhood, it is tied to memories of the comforts of home. I was the youngest child in my family growing up and therefore had the privilege of spending a couple of years at home with my grandma. She was a woman who expressed her love through the foods that she prepared. Every food that she fixed seemed to turn out effortlessly and perfect. I don't remember the what the foods tasted like, but I do remember the warm feelings of protection and love that her ministrations brought to a little girl.

We lived in a country neighborhood where the houses were close enough to walk to, but far enough apart to make good neighbors.  Grandma had a social group of old women that she visited.  They would invite each other for the afternoon to share the goodies they made and to have even more needed companionship with those who were at the same place in life.  These women instinctively understood that food was tied to something deeper than meeting caloric needs.  The foods that they fixed daily at home, made for socializing with their friends and the foods that they shared with the community at church dinners, or funerals were an expression of the essence of who they were, their solidarity with the folks with whom they shared their lives and most importantly an expression of their love.

Today in my own kitchen I fried chicken, made wheat rolls, banana bread and presently I have a beef stew bubbling on the stove.  Wouldn't it be easier to go to KFC for my chicken and the local grocers for the rest of the things?  Maybe easier in the sense that I wouldn't have to mess up the kitchen.  I wouldn't have the good smells in the house or the satisfaction of laboring with my hands to share something tasty and nourishing with my family.  I am at the point in my cooking that it doesn't require rocket science for me to cook.  It was the same for all of those old ladies that were my grandmas friends.  Many of them had been cooking for 60+ years at that time.  They were experts in the field of preparing food. It takes practice and lots of mess ups to become one of those effortless cooks. But as one becomes an expert at cooking, it produces a really wonderful sense of pleasure.

I grow concerned that a society that gives up the privilege of cooking in the home will soon be a non-existent one. The preparing of food for those you love is just one way to bond or cement the relationships.  In our chaotic world we need all of the stability and the right kind of bonding that we can get.

Island Banana Bread
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
  2 eggs
1/2 cup of shortening
3 mashed ripened bananas
Mix the dry ingredients and with shortening.  It will be lumpy. Beat eggs and bananas together.
Fold quickly into dry ingredient. Do not mix excessively. The batter should be lumpy.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes in a loaf pan that has been sprayed with oil.  Often I turn the oven off at the end of baking if the bread is still not completely done.  It will continue baking in the warm oven without burning the bottom of the bread.  Baking time might have to be adjusted based on the size of the bananas that are used.