You may have heard about how food tastes better when it’s made with the intangible ingredients of care and love. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past couple of weeks, while my church has acted as hosts for Greater Portland Family Promise.
Being a host congregation involves a lot of activities, including spending the night at church and hanging out with the families, but many of them revolve around food: preparing meals, sharing dinner with the guest families, putting out breakfast foods, and helping get lunches together. It makes sense – food is, after all, a basic staple of life.
I volunteered for a couple of sleepovers, but given my food focus, it was inevitable that I also signed up to contribute some food.
Before our host weeks started, I hadn’t thought much about what kind of food I’d make, or what it would mean to the family (we only had one family until close to the end). Then I met them, and everything changed.
For my first overnight, I arrived early enough to spend a little time talking with the family, a young couple with two daughters. I also had fun playing with the girls, one adorable and very energetic toddler and one infant with a beautiful smile.
The time spent made me feel connected to them. Suddenly I wanted to make something special. They said they were okay with any kind of food, and grateful for whatever we might make, but still, I wanted to do something a little extra.
That desire only increased after the parents cooked for us! After their first week, they prepared a feast: roasted chicken with a tasty sauce of chicken liver and olives; homemade bread; an eggplant and onion dish; a yellow bean dish; and homemade French fries.
The food was delicious, but it went beyond that. The family has so little – they wouldn’t be in the program otherwise – that it makes me consider how much it must mean to them to be able to offer something back, to show their own appreciation and care through food. I imagine, too, how wonderful it would feel to cook your own meal again. I know that for me, no matter how good other people’s food is, it’s not the same.
I therefore decided to try something new and cook lamb in my crock-pot. I think it came out okay, and I hope my care in making it, and my desire to make them feel welcomed, came through to them, that they would feel how much I wish the best for them.
I don’t know if I’ll see them again, but I am so glad for this opportunity to help, and to remember how connected we can be, to ourselves and each other, through the simple act of cooking with care.