dana and challah

A love language can be defined as a word or action that serves to express feelings of affection. For some, it’s words of affirmation; for others, physical touch. And for me?  Food is my love language.

People who love to eat are always the best people”– Julia Child 

Food is my love language.  It always has been.  I have spent the last three years reflecting on why food is do important to me and such a big part of my life as long as I can remember.  

I remember sitting at the table watching my mother cook and listening to her talk through it all.  I remember restaurants specifically and meals from our family gatherings and from travels.  I can see when I close my eyes I can remember the pantry at 6540, well maybe that is because I would spend so much time in there talking on the phone in private” because the cord only went that far.  And I remember when my mother had our kitchen at 1050 – the meals, the people and how that old kitchen with the fire place was the center of everything.  

Then my parents kitchen at their Inn.  My kids grew up in that kitchen.  They ate breakfast at the kitchen counter and when older did dishes and helped serve guests.  So the kitchen and the food from the kitchen always played a major role in my life.

As I traveled the world learning about the food of each place. It became clear to me that this was just not a me thing.  This was a people thing.  Food defines cultures, it shapes societies and most importantly food unites people.  

Food provides nutrients that give us energy and allows us to function each day.  Each culture has its own ideas of what a good diet is”.  A few years back David bought me the book The Blue Zones Kitchen” by David McLean.  I fell in love. The concept is around areas in the world where people live the longest.  Not just live to an old age, but enjoy life.  And to think that the underlying base was food.  The food itself, how it is prepared and the people we share it with. 

You cannot live without food. Our survival depends on it.  We are transported by food and food changes how we live. Food has literally shaped cultures and defines their identities.   Some say that food brings down walls and puts some up. Cultures used food to feed the gods, to be honored at festivals, and to use in good ways to save populations and holding food back to harm populations. The strength of food is monumental.

Travel and food writing has supported my love of food and the language it creates for people and their cultures.  

David Zucker, my sweet husband, says he will always remember the day he knew we would always be together.  It was 1990, we were both working on our master degrees and I had invited him out to my place for dinner.  I was living in this townhouse out at the lake in Morgantown, W. Va.  There was a kitchen with a little pass through.  I was in the kitchen and had just pulled the clay pot out of the oven with a roast that just finished.

I lifted the top, steam rose and I looked over at David through the pass through.  I saw the look in his eyes and it was everything.  And yes, he still gets that look and I still notice it. It was the smell it was the look.  I had such pride in that smell.  The clay pot was filled with nutrients, cooked in an ancient way in a clay pot in a modern oven.  Inviting David for dinner was very calculated, I picked each vegetable by hand knowing what each would do.  It is now 2020 and he still gives me that look.  That pot was filled with so much more than substance.  It had tradition, the future and love.  

And unless David reads this he will still not know that when he tells the story I hold back that I saw his look and still to this day it makes me get wobbly in the knees.

Food is my love language.  I plan family and friend gatherings around food.  I carefully pick the meals designed to evoke conversation and stimulate together time.  Food is about how it is served, where it is served and what it is served on.   It is about the time that we carefully decide to set a table or deciding not to.

Food is about control and planning. Sometimes I think I hide behind food.  During sad or trying times you will find me in the kitchen handling the food.  I use to think it was my way to escape. But in reality it is my way of coping and loving.  It allows me to nourish the soul of my loved ones.  

Cooking heals. Yes, I love getting dressed and start cooking.  As I am writing this I will admit today has been a tough day. Nothing bad, just trying.  I had to go to the dentist and had high boots on and I made the decision to leave them on all day and make dinner in them.  

When my kids came home with their significant others during Covid quarantine my way of coping was to plan all the meals.  I loved having lunch ready for all while they worked virtually and then we joined for dinner.  Often one or two would take a break and help harvest for dinner.  Knowing I had my people here, safe and I could care and nourish them.

If you were one of my twins High School friends you most likely had lunch at our house.  Each day I made lunch for 10. Listening to the sounds of chatter and laughter was the best.  I loved them with my food.  

I design kitchens around my love language.  I assure that every seat in the kitchen I can see when working at the stove so I can see the expressions, so that they can join in if they want or sit if they want.  

Food is my love language as it nourishes others as language should, it is the catalyst of conversation, it feeds the soul and fills my heart.