—or Hearts Connected by Invisible String
For about 8 months, I ordered take-out or prepared food. Every. Single. Night. I’m not exaggerating. After we brought home Squirrel, the act of washing, chopping, cooking, or baking anything felt out of my reach. I had no capacity for it. This was a big switch since cooking and hosting are two of my big loves. Luckily, we were surrounded by amazing friends who dropped off so many dinners and gift cards to Munchery that Squirrel started asking…” who is bringing us food tonight?” You know you are loved when…
But one day, I woke up out of the fog and declared, “I miss cooking. I’m ready!” And it once again became the joyful, meditative practice I had known for years. I love a chance to take care of my family through food. Finding out which things were Squirrel’s favorites and how to honor my love for lentils at the same time as her need for piles of meat has been an adventure.
And as we all know, food takes us places. To our grandmother’s kitchen where fresh persimmon bread was baking, our dad’s all-day marinara, or mom’s quick chicken pasta with broccoli and pine nuts. The smells bring us right back. It can be so comforting.
Once I was back in the groove of putting on my apron each night, I started asking Squirrel, “What foods will make you happy to eat this week?” For a while, she’d say “everything” or “nothing” since making decisions or reflecting were skills she was still building. But one day, she said “Spaghetti with no meatballs. Cut up.” I waited quietly until she added, “My grandma used to make that for me.” There it is. Recipes are connections to our past. To the people who love us, even and especially if the love was complicated. Our little girl had a grandma who loved her and used to make spaghetti just the way she liked it.
Our family meals are a chance to create new traditions and honor old ones. We get to help Squirrel remember all the people who love her—even those from her past we haven’t met. We can picture our hearts connected by invisible strings.
I dress up store bought sauce. Pinch of cinnamon for sweetness. Pepper flakes for heat. Grate in garlic. I finely chop spinach or chard and saute it up with lots of olive oil. I brown ground turkey sausage and mix it into the sauce. Big bowl. Sprinkle whatever cheese is in the house. Squirrel still calls this “Spaghetti with no meatballs” even though it has meat and greens mixed in. And I like using spiral pasta. She asks for it every single night of the week.
What simple dinners do your kids love?