Eating can be one of life’s great pleasures… By my early teens, I was experimenting in the kitchen and at 15 I cooked my first turkey dinner when Mom injured her eye so badly that she couldn’t see.

I have often joked that I learned to cook in self-defense.  While Mom made some things very well, she wasn’t very adventurous, meals were quite simple and often not so tasty, and my mother the great organizer, would often prepare the meal hours ahead and keep it warm on the stove so dinner would be ready the minute Dad got home from work…  don’t ask me about those leather pork chops… The problem for my mother wasn’t that she wasn’t interested or capable, but that my father didn’t care about eating and had little but criticism to offer by way of “encouragement”… she never really had her heart in the cooking.

Yet heart is so integral to good cooking… every good chef will notice a meal prepared with love… even a simple meal is made holy when prepared – and shared – with love. 

Recently I took my Mother to visit with my Aunt Terry who got to talking about how she and Mom had left home  to work in Ottawa towards the end of the war… but they made only $60 a month so they often went hungry… what they remembered though was not the hunger  and hard times, but all the times their aunt and uncle and grandmother sent them home with fabulous  cakes and pies and enough leftovers to carry them through the week… they remembered the love, not the hardship.

A few days after this visit, a good friend contacted me, frantic about her son who had just struck out on his own… instead of going off to college as planned, he had taken a job in town and rented an apartment with his girlfriend… she was angry, disappointed, hurt that he had lied, thinking to cut him off from the family… but I remembered the stories of the leftovers… and also how my middle brother had done something similar in his teens… Mom kept feeding him – believing in him – and although he never moved back home, he remained close to the family and has made a great success of his life – with the woman he married at 18 by his side to the whole way… so I told my friend to send her son food, to bring him groceries, to invite him for dinners and send him home with the leftovers… the food will remind him of how he is loved… and give him the energy and maybe even the inspiration to pursue his dreams in the end… Food has a way of bringing people together… and Thanksgiving is one of those meals that feeds the soul and gives us an excuse to gather with friends and family. Although this can be a very stressful time for some families, a little extra love on the table can ease the strain.

Here are some hints for putting a little extra love in your thanksgiving dinner:

If you’re the cook, don’t allow anger in the kitchen, choose fresh over frozen or canned, invite friends and family to contribute – or at least to keep you company in the kitchen…  honor the traditions – and also do something different… be attentive to the timing, but don’t allow the clock to pressure you… take pleasure in being able to prepare a good meal for the people you love…

If you’re a guest, you can still help to put a little love in the food… start by bringing a small gift, a bottle of wine, or even some dessert. Then offer to help the cook, even if it’s just picking up the the dirty dishes… and  most importantly, bring your good spirits, and express your gratitude.

 Happy Thanksgiving!

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