Everyone knows that I love to cook. And food is more than just a meal to me – it’s about making memories with my family. Attached to many of my favorite dishes are fond memories of picnics, backyard barbecues, graduations, weddings, baby showers, birthday celebrations, I could go on and on.
When someone I know suffers the loss of a loved one, out comes my lasagna pan. There is something comforting about a huge pan of bubbling pasta that somehow, just soothes the soul. It’s comforting for me to make it, layering the noodles, sauce and cheese, knowing how healing food can be.
When my father was very ill, I took many trips to Maryland to see him. While I was there, I filled the freezer with containers of homemade beef vegetable soup. When my best friend was battling cancer, I would show up at her door with a pot of beef stew, cabbage rolls or ham & bean soup – comfort food at its finest.
I have a favorite noodle dish I make that I call the “damn noodles.” It’s an oriental dish that was the recipe of my brother Joe’s wife, Susan. The noodles are made with cilantro, green onions and a rich and flavorful, spicy peanut sauce, and can be served hot or cold (they are quite delicious). They were my father’s favorite dish. When Dad was in the hospital, my brother would bring him the noodles to eat. Every time I was there, Dad would ask Joe, “Where are my damn noodles?” We would laugh and joke about it. Shortly thereafter, Dad passed away.
It was a couple of years later, as I went through my recipes in search of something special to make for a gathering, when I found the recipe for Dad’s noodles. I couldn’t bring myself to make them since he passed because it made me miss him too much. On that day, however, I decided that it was time. It was time to make the “damn noodles.” I could almost hear him laugh as I made them and I shed a few tears, too. It’s amazing to me how food can evoke such strong memories.
My kids know that I will make their own special meal for their birthday – chicken divan for my daughter, cheesecake for Jeff (because he doesn’t like cake), and German chocolate cake for Matt. My granddaughter, Gianna, was born in June, so I always made strawberry shortcake for her when she lived near, with hand-picked strawberries from Spicer Orchards. Each year, my grandson, Noah, comes up with a different idea for his birthday meal, but it usually involves seafood. Last year, it was homemade clam chowder and he loved it!
My other grandson, Mack, loves to cook as much as I do. He acts as my sous chef, chopping up veggies and garlic while learning some of my recipes. He has become quite a good cook. Maybe one day, he will pull out a recipe and say to his own kids, “this is something my grandma used to make!”