Last weekend, my oldest daughter posted a photo of homemade biscuits and jam on instagram along with a little blurb about what they represent. She tied them to memories of childhood and the love and care of grandparents, and it was sweet and heartfelt and made us all a little damp-eyed and soft-centred for a time.
So I’ve been thinking about how we become a conglomerate of all those memories and impressions. Sometimes we have physical things or sensations that can evoke those connections. And sometimes we have the opportunity to consciously embrace those prompts to make them a part of who we are and what we become.
Food is a very emotional thing in our family. Certain foods, smells, tastes will instantly connect us to a memory or a time in our past. Food made with love makes us want to linger closer and longer. And I’m sure many families are like that. Some families even have secret recipes that are only passed on to a single person in a generation to guard the precious connection. I’ve always been more of the share it with anyone who wants it camp, because I happen to think rationing recipes is a little selfish and short-sighted. What if grandma dies before she passes it on? Then the connection is gone. If that particular food is to be love made tangible (and digestible), surely it would be better to pass it along as often and widely as you possibly can, not just bring it forth with aplomb once a year for a select group. But that’s just me.
So today after feeling guilty at not baking much for months due to some health adventures requiring multiple surgeries, I decided to make a cake to remind my husband that he’s amazing. Because I know he shares that food/memory connection thing and often will equate a fond experience from his childhood with something he got to eat. I felt a surprise cake would help him see how grateful I was for his patience and care this past while. So I found a recipe I thought would work out and got to it. In about half an hour the house was fragrant with applesauce and spices. And it felt great.
What happened next was a funny little surprise all its own. Cake was done and so it came out to cool. No disasters. No overcooking. Everything was fine. I had my lunch and returned to the task I had been doing before. But after a little while I got peckish. And I went to see how the cake was cooling and found myself cutting out a corner to make sure it was all right.
That might not seem like a big thing to anyone else, but as I cut the square out of the corner of the cake to eat, I suddenly realised I was doing exactly what my Nana did throughout my childhood. She would often have made a cake to feed us when we came to visit and almost always there was a small corner missing where she had tasted it first before giving it to us. I don’t think it was about not being able to resist it. It was more that once she had tasted it to make sure it was all right she could pass it along to us with confidence. A tester of her token of love for us. And I got a little damp-eyed and soft-centred for a moment. A little corner of my love.
I wonder what odd little food habit of mine will live on in future generations. My husband likes a bit of sharp cheddar with a fresh baked apple pie because his father always did that. We are each a wonderful mixture of memories and food traditions, and I am oh so grateful we are.