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Cooking Says I Love You
Mom with a View

Cooking Says I Love You

If food isn't love, then what am I doing in the kitchen?


As Jewish women, we spend an inordinate amount of time cooking. There are all the holidays, there's Shabbos, in fact there's every night of the week! Some of us enjoy it more than others (although I've been know to resent the suggestion that because I like cooking, it is therefore effortless for me!), some like the creativity, some like the idea of nourishing their family, some of us just like to eat. But whether it's pleasurable or stressful or occasionally both, we do a lot of it.

I don't think it's just because we're obligated to. I don't think it's just because it's cheaper than takeout. I think that, psychologist's warning to the contrary, food is an expression of love. There are of course unhealthy ways of using food to express love (especially if the goal is self-love instead of love of others), but in general preparing and serving food is an act of kindness and caring. While my husband has been known to say that anyone who can read can bake, not everyone that can read does bake.

When realtors try to sell a house they frequently spray cinnamon throughout to give it that homey feeling. The kitchen is often the warmest place in the home, the gathering spot, the center of family life, and even sometimes of entertaining. This is no accident. The warmth that exudes from the kitchen is not just oven heat; it's the warmth of family and closeness. It's the warmth of love, with food the vehicle.

It is not food in isolation that is an expression of love. It is not food on grocery shelves or at deli counters. It is food prepared by mothers (and fathers). It is food that is used to create a home, to create connection, to create celebration, to embrace family and friends.

In creating the meals, we are creating homes, nurturing environments. What could be more important?

It is one of our most basic ways of giving. When someone is sitting shiva, we bring food. It is to satisfy the mourner's physical and psychological hunger -- to fill their stomachs and their hearts. And it is to satisfy our desire to help, to give, to do something that says "I care."

Whenever we have guests over, our instinct is to feed them (even if they weren't invited for dinner!). It's not because they are, God forbid, impoverished and wouldn't eat otherwise. It's because that's how we express friendship and hospitality (and get them to come back again!).

When someone moves into the neighborhood, we bake a cake. On Purim we deliver baskets of food. When a friend has a simcha to celebrate, the first question we ask is "Can I make anything?"

The Almighty could have made us completely self-sustaining without any need for food. Or He could have made us without any need for prepared food (like the adherents of the "raw" movement). There are many reasons He didn't choose this road. Perhaps one is this opportunity to give, to express our caring in a clear and concrete way. (You can't give diamonds every day!)

It is worthwhile to make our kitchens bright and cheery since we spend so much time there. And even though the preparation usually takes much longer than the eating, it doesn't matter. The pleasure and gratitude and satiation last (till bedtime snack anyway...).

Some people make the mistake of thinking, "All that effort and nothing to show for it." What about your family that feels nourished, warmed, cared for? What about your friends who also feel loved and valued? What about yourself? In creating the meals, we are creating homes, nurturing environments. What could be more important?

Food is definitely love, and I say "Bring it on."

December 29, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 16

(16) Anonymous, January 10, 2008 9:11 PM


That's it! You said exactly what I was feeling for me! Some people can't understand what I like about cooking but this says it perfectly. It's not so much the cooking that I like but the good, warm, comfortable feeling that people get when they eat good, home-cooked food. Thank you for a great article.

(15) Rachel, January 7, 2008 3:52 PM

It's Shabbat or the Sabbath to some of us

Re comment 12, if the writer prefers "shabbos", that's fine, but please understand the fact that those who use the Israeli/Sephardic pronunciation, or for that matter the English word "Sabbath" can enjoy it just as much. I wonder if S.N. Gelberg would criticize me for cooking Sephardic foods for Shabbat instead of the matzah ball soup-gefilte fish-roast chicken that is often on the table in Ashkenazic households?

(14) Anonymous, January 4, 2008 11:18 AM

You said it.

You express this so beautifully it made me hungry.

(13) Anonymous, January 3, 2008 5:58 PM

Different Opinion

You can fill your family's stomachs and souls without spending hours in the kitchen. I for one would rather help a child with homework, throw a football, take a walk, share a book, have a long chat, etc. than exhaust myself with hours in the kitchen and then be too tired to interact with anyone. Family members should appreciate mom for much more than her culinary efforts. It's ridiculous to claim that food is the one thing that shows love more than anything else. Many moms spend all their time and energy in the kitchen and have nothing left to give after serving the meal. On the other hand, many families feel "nourished, warmed, cared for" without having mom spend all her time in the kitchen. Shame on the author for suggesting that those who don't particularly enjoy cooking or reject the time investment have somehow shortchanged their families.

(12) Rachel, January 2, 2008 7:18 PM

Cooking Connections

Nicely written and emotion touching type article. Our home was filled with family, food and mostly happy memories with the two combined. There is a flip side however as "Anonymous" noted. It brought to mind a Robert Burn's quotation:
"Some have meat, and cannot eat, And some cannot eat that want it; But we have meat, and we can eat - And let the Lord be thanked."
There was a very sad time in my life too "Anonymous" (written 1/1/2008) when I could not afford even milk for my 18 month old child. I am grateful, even these many years later, to have food, a home and be able to cook and eat. The flip side is not fun, at all.

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