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Posts Tagged ‘nourish’

I confess: I haven’t been taking good care of myself lately.

Sometimes it’s just so easy to follow the routine, head down, going through the motions of work and errands, projects and obligations, to-dos and should-dos. Hitting the snooze button in the mornings, running late to work, letting the dishes pile up in the sink and the laundry stack up in the baskets, with (seemingly) no time to write my morning pages (or much of anything else), no chance to keep a tidy house or spend quiet evenings on the couch, reading or knitting and sipping tea. (J and I have been watching – and loving – copious episodes of Castle, though that’s currently on hiatus as he cheers the Rangers on in the World Series.)

Our Boston weather, and my internal weather, has been swinging wildly from one extreme to the next: clear skies and gorgeous autumn leaves one day, grey gloom and buckets of rain the next. When it’s like this, I start to shrug off the value of taking care; I start to neglect the things that keep me comforted, the little routines and lifesavers and the things I do to tend my house and my soul. And that means, among other things, a precipitous drop in comfort, my often-elusive one little word for the year.

The answer, as usual, is in the little things, the small shifts back toward the balance I crave. It’s in lighting a pretty candle in the evenings, in brewing a cup of tea at my desk, in taking a long walk at lunchtime. I’ve been remembering a phrase Jen used last year, and hearing it in my head like a nudge, a kindly imperative: pull back to gentleness. With myself, with my husband, with the way things are right now. And that means: no judgment, just acceptance. A letting go, and telling myself: it is enough.

It is enough, even while I think I should be doing so much more, to wash one sinkful of dishes, do one load of laundry, write one or two or three pages in my journal. It is enough to sink into this seasonal transition, to wrap myself up in cozy cardigans and a new red scarf, to cook simple meals and sit on the couch flipping through a magazine after dinner. It is enough to just be, just breathe, while I try to figure out a more nourishing routine for myself, a more rhythmic shape to my days. It is enough.

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food is love

I come from a family of women who believe that food is love. Cooking and eating are how we celebrate, how we nourish our families, what we do when we’re together. My mom’s parents cook extravagant breakfasts when we visit – all the while insisting that they don’t really eat like this (fried eggs and bacon and toast with jam) every day. There’s always a batch of chocolate-chip cookies on the counter or in the oven. We cook and eat and then hang around until it’s time to eat again. At their old farmhouse in Ohio and at their current ranch-style house in Texas, we spend nearly all day at the kitchen table. And Neno always packs our pockets full of snacks for the road when we leave.

During my growing-up years, my mother insisted we all show up at the table for dinner every night, as often as humanly possible. Even when Betsy had golf practice and I had band rehearsal, we ate together, as a family, nearly every night of the week. Eating out was the exception rather than the rule, and I always felt a little sorry for my friends whose mothers just didn’t cook.

My mom loved cooking for the friends my sister and I brought home from college. And she took it a step farther. When she and my dad came to Abilene for big weekends like Homecoming and Sing Song (an ACU tradition), she’d take over the kitchen at either my house or Betsy’s house. Instead of going out to eat (because every restaurant in Abilene is packed on such weekends), Mom would mastermind a meal and cook it for my dad, my sister and I, our roommates, a boyfriend or two and assorted friends. She especially loved cooking for the boys, because there is no more appreciative audience for good food than a couple of hungry college guys.

I grew up helping in the kitchen – setting the table, mixing cookie dough, stirring green beans on the stove, loading the dishwasher. I began cooking for myself more as a college student, particularly after moving into a house with a real kitchen, and then as a single girl in my wee one-bedroom flat. And I began, at the same time, cooking for others – for my roommates, for the church small group I went to on Sunday nights, for my Oxford crew at our dozens of birthday parties, for the praise team when they came over to rehearse, for Jeremiah (who, bless him, professes to love everything I make).

In Oxford, I baked like mad for those five dungeon boys, with whom I shared a kitchen. (They also, bless them, loved everything I made.) I quickly learned there was no better way to show my love for them than pulling a batch of fresh scones or cookies or fruit crumble out of the oven. Nick would stick his head in the doorway, sniffing like a hound on the scent, blue eyes wide and questioning. “Is that for us?” The answer was always yes, and I’d watch with pride as they dug in.

Now, in our new Boston life, I cook mostly for J and me, and we make mounds of build-your-own burritos when we have friends over. But I also cook and bake for our friends at Brookline – we have a monthly lunch potluck and a semi-monthly Sunday night meal together. And there is no better feeling than picking up my empty pan after a meal and knowing everyone ate what I brought – and loved it.

We had 15 extra college students with us last Sunday, and typically for college students, they were hungry. And oh, how gratifying it was to pick up my two pans afterward and see that they’d eaten most of the manicotti noodles stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella, and every last one of the chocolate-chip cookie bars.

I’m not a foodie or a gourmet or even a particularly adventurous cook – though I regularly concoct dishes my mother and grandmother have never heard of. I am simply a girl who loves to provide for the people she loves. In my world, a good meal is a gift and a promise, an affirmation of what’s real and true. Food is about community, about family. So if I’m cooking you a meal or baking you cookies or offering to brew you a cup of tea, what I’m really saying is: I love you. You’re part of my tribe. Sit down and stay a while, and let’s be part of each other’s lives. And oh, let me pass you another cookie. And would you like some more coffee?

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