This is always an interesting time of year, with so many traditions focused on connections to an afterworld: Samhain, Halloween, the Day of the Dead, All Souls’ Day. Also interesting is that many of them focus around food, whether it be giving out “treats” so roaming spirits will be appeased and not “trick” us, or making feasts to celebrate our loved ones who’ve passed on.
But even outside of this time of year, I sometimes think I’m feeding ghosts, in a sense, when I eat and interact with food in certain ways.
When I pick blueberries or plant tomatoes, it sometimes feels like my mom’s hands are the ones doing the work, not mine. When I get fresh corn at the Farmers’ Market, I remember how much trouble she went to trying to grow corn when I was growing up, often to no avail, thanks to raccoons. I don’t often make grilled cheese sandwiches, but when I do, I remember how my mom always used to like how I made them – and that they were on of my aunt Gail’s favorite foods.
Sometimes I get ambitious when I make cookies for Christmas, and I’ll make Daisy’s Filled Cookies. This is a recipe I got from my grandmother, created by her mother, Daisy, who had an entrepreneurial streak and sold the cookies to her neighbors via the bread man. Fig Newtons also remind me of my grandmother, and even though I don’t really remember her brother, my great-uncle Kenny, I associate him with pancakes, after hearing my dad talk about how Kenny would make batch upon batch of pancakes to satisfy the appetites of growing boys.
It reminds me all over again of how food connects us, not only to those who are alive now, but the long chain of those who’ve come before. Clearly my dad comes from a long line of bakers, and my mom from a long line of gardeners – back when her parents were still able to have a garden, they sometimes donated up to 300 pounds of food to the soup kitchen.
I don’t know who all those people were in my lineage who helped shape how I view and work with food today, and I won’t necessarily be making a feast for them this week, but I will think of them all with gratitude.