There are a lot of reasons. Some of them have to do with the fact that I’m working on an essay about the dishes I inherited from my grandmother when she died; I always use her pancake recipe.
Some of it has to do with homesickness, both for Georgia where my born-into family is, and for Virginia, where my adopted family is.
Some of it has to do with the fact that I made a cupcake recipe yesterday that, once again, fell flat and would not yield to all my best efforts.
There’s a fantastic book by Tamar Adler called An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace. I used to teach one of the chapters, “How to Build a Ship,” to my freshman composition class; it is the kind of food writing that indulges the emotional side of cooking, the ways that we rely on it to comfort us, or to allow us an opportunity to comfort others.
In the chapter, Adler puts it very simply:
If it’s hot dogs or cinnamon toast that reminds your heart that it can be moved by food, make hot dogs or cinnamon toast.
Lately, while I’ve been having a reckoning with my writing life, while I’ve been working at cooking without the Internet, I have found my relationship to cooking growing a bit strained: it has begun to lose its playfulness, its enjoyment. My heart had forgotten that it can be moved by food.
This is the danger of allowing food to become overly programmed: when food is reduced to calories, or blog fodder, or the measure of our self-worth, it ceases to move us. It stimulates the head space, but it leaves the heart space, the space closer to our bellies, cold and forgotten.
My heart was feeling a bit cold. A bit forgotten. And when I got quiet and thought about what food would warm it again, I knew it was pancakes. My Grandma’s recipe. As my mom said in an email to me just today, that recipe: “it’s home.”
For lunch, I made those pancakes. I added chopped up bittersweet chocolate to some (because I’m out of chocolate chips and squares of dark chocolate are all we have), blueberries to others, and mixed chocolate and blueberries in a couple, just for fun.
After lunch, I re-read the “How to Build a Ship” chapter in An Everlasting Meal, and I found solid truth in this quote by Adler:
Tug your memories back into the kitchen with you and you’ll find yourself less separate from the idea of making food.
Pancakes took me back today. I needed them for that, to send warmth into my heart space, to connect heart and head instead of making them chilly neighbors with a tall hedge in between.
My faith was renewed today: my ardent belief that food is about enjoyment, and healing, and love, and home, and giving, and memory. It’s about what you make, in the kitchen, and in your heart, and in your life.