“You hungry, mijo?”
My grandma asked me this even though I was late for breakfast and she had already finished cooking.
“I’m good, Grandma.”
“You sure? I can make you some migas.”
“No, not if you’re done cooking.”
“Sit down. I’m going to cook for you.”
My trip to Florida last month for my Aunt Lucy’s wedding reaffirmed what I remember noticing a long time ago about the bonding effect food can have on a family. My grandma’s eagerness to cook for me and for others was evident not only when she insisted on making me breakfast, but also in the manner in which she did so — with ease. As if it was nothing. And, in a way, it was nothing. She’s prepared a thousand meals before, so what’s another breakfast plate? Tearing up tortillas, she smiled and laughed, listening to the conversation at the breakfast table. There wasn’t anything particularly special about her making our breakfast. It’s only natural, right? We have to eat, therefore someone has to cook. But there is something special about knowing food is being prepared and gathering with your family to eat and to talk, to smell and to taste what’s been so graciously prepared for you.
For me, however, grandma’s breakfast was a special occasion, living twelve hours away and coming from a different dining tradition. When talking to friends about our food traditions growing up, we had almost unanimously similar experiences: You made your own food, and even if you don’t, you ate wherever you wanted. At the table, maybe. In front of the TV, probably. This summer, however, my roommate Ryan, our friend Margaret, and I decided to be more intentional about our own food culture. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stresses of day-to-day and lose that ritual of food in the midst of our I-Have-To-Eat-Real-Quick-Before-fill in the blank habits. So the three of us picked Tuesday and affectionately renamed it Fat Daddy night! We come together to share a meal with each other and our guests. This week our friends Kelsey and Lauren joined us. Tuesdays, er, Fat Daddies are becoming a welcome break from the sometimes-hectic fluidity of our schedules. A hopefully family-like, bonding experience. A time to engage in conversation as well as our senses. We talk and laugh and taste things as we prepare our meals, and come together with our dinner guests to eat what we’ve made. We talk while we eat, eat until we’re full, and linger after we’re done until our stomachs have settled.