Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gifts of Food

To me, the Gift of Food is one of the most meaningful one can give. Exploring the meanings of such a Gift is hard. I somehow am pushed to think in dimensions beyond the limit of paltry English words.

Food is essential for Life. Giving a Gift of Food honors that Gift of Life within the Recipient and seeks to uplift and sustain it. Further, the Giver needed to assemble a lovely recipe of Time, Resources, and Talent in the Gift, amidst complicated times for all of us. The simple act may have been spontaneous, provoked by none other than a Gift of Love from the Giver. Or, the Gift may have been given at a time of need of the Recipient, when the simple act of making Food may have been difficult.

Tonight, Richard fixed Burritos, whose aroma greeted us as Melanie and I walked in the door after a long day away from the Farm. Among other embellishments he had fixed, we spooned on top Salsa made by Lizzie. A year ago, Dorreen (Lizzie's sister) assembled for us a special box of food stuffs from the Northern Plains, reminding us of another place on the Planet we will always call Home. That meant so much. Plus, having Salsa brought up thoughts of Lizzie and Dorreen and we smiled. It was almost like they sat down to dinner with us.

Two days ago, we had the last of the homemade Deer Sausage from Sarah, her Uncle Greg, and the Cummins family in northern Minnesota. And we had it nestled alongside Homemade Sauerkraut made by either Heather and her family (southern Minnesota), or Theresa and hers (North Dakota). We couldn't figure out which one sent it. So we celebrated the Gifts of Food from each of these dear families. Sausage and Sauerkraut are soul food for someone of German and Croatian descent.

When Wendy found out that Mother had fallen a few weeks ago, she sent over a Spaghetti Lasagne. When her Mother Shirley found out that I had just returned from surgery, she brought over a wonderful hot dish of Chicken, Rice, and Veggies. Both Wendy and Shirley are neighbors. Joni and Arnie brought over Hugs and Muffins last Sunday after learning of my surgery and the recent dizzying clip of events in our family.

Some of my fondest memories as a Child were of my Mother on the phone hearing of events in the lives of neighbors, friends and family, and springing into action in the best way she knew how: fixing food. The phone call might have brought news of a birth, an illness, or death. She would have come home after a very busy day at the Shoe Factory to take on the challenges of her growing family. But she would drop everything in that moment to tend to someone in need (and to organize a neighborhood to do so). It wouldn't be long thereafter that the mixer would be whipping up some culinary delicacy, the oven would be wafting loving aromas, or a pie would be on its way to someone we loved and cared about.

Mother always had time for such things, and we certainly had time to set our own agendas on hold for someone we loved. It was almost like the other was "doing some of those sacred works of living" which are intense. The least we could do was to support them in our humble gifts of food.

I have taken on this practice throughout my adult life. Somehow, it just seemed natural. Maybe Mother planted seeds in me. I think fondly of such times of sharing. While we gave food to nurture, I think the simple act of giving nurtured us many more times in return.

I remember sharing food with our elderly neighbor Myrt that first harsh winter after her husband Carlisle had passed. She greeted us at the door with visible gratitude and obvious relief. We trudged over to her house through some pretty heavy snows that winter to carry a hot steaming meal. I was especially drawn to sharing with her some of the old foods which would have been characteristic of her generation.

Our favorite meal to share was a Buffalo Roast surrounded by steaming Green Beans, Celery, Potatoes, Carrots, Sweet Potatoes and whatever wanted to go into the Roaster. Such a meal was reminiscent of the feasts of Roast Beef that Aunt Louise would make when I was a child. We shared Buffalo Roast with Patrick and Lora when they moved into their new home. We shared that with Nancy, Evie and their family when their mother Evelyn passed. And we shared Buffalo Roast with Dillon, Christine and the new grandparents at the birth of Jonas. All these memories make me smile.

After our move here and after my Father had passed, we have often bundled up food for Mother. Many of the foods that we have fixed come right from recipes in our shared past. Some are in the freezer awaiting her as she comes home.

We have evolved some basic rules in all of this: We prepare the food with the intention of love and support for those we love. Only the finest of ingredients are used. In our case, we go "organic" as much as possible. Such initiatives flow seamlessly into our daily lives. They are not separate from the routine of our lives, but rather an essential part.

I think back on the wonderful gifts of Food to my family and me these past few weeks. Yum. In all of these Gifts amid tender times, we relax into a luxurious Lap of Love.

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