(This short post comes from a writing prompt in my MFA residency workshop. The writing prompt encouraged us to write a short essay about how food influences our lives. Mrs. M is a dear friend and a fellow writer.)
"And now we'll strain the sauce,"Mrs. M. pressed the pureed pineapple through the strainer theatrically, in response to my suggestion that she host a cooking show. "Aaand I have nothing else to say."
I broke out in an easy laughter, sitting on the barstool across from her--the same stool I sat on a month earlier when she'd told me that the doctors diagnosed her husband with liver cirrhosis. In the absence of the usual factors--drinking and smoking--the doctors didn't know the cause. But Mrs. M had told us that nine months ago, her life had changed and most notably so in her kitchen.
"All organic. Nothing processed. Nothing." Her hazel eyes shone with left over tears from the story, but her voice was charged, edged with excitement. "And so, I've found ways to be creative." She starts her mornings at 3:30, slicing fruit for smoothies, filling bottles with filtered water and lemon wedges, chopping vegetables and cooking fresh meats and breads for her husband's work lunch where she used to slather mayonnaise and sandwich deli meats and cheese between white bread.
I'd eaten at her house several times since then and learned each time the effort that she invested in each meal. Today was no different as she removed a tray from the oven to present fluffy golden biscuits made with the flour she purchased from the Middle East somewhere--18 dollars a pound. The jam sitting on the counter is pomegranate grape, also from some exotic place.
She's already explained that the meatballs are hand-made with turkey, the sauce from organic tomatoes, the noodles from her special flour, the salad from organic vegetables and fresh strained pineapple dressing. For dessert, she promises, pulling back a thin dishtowel from a 9x13 pyrex pan, "Apple dumplings sweetened with honey."
She arranges the food on the table set with her china and cloth napkins, and steps back to survey her spread. Nodding, she walks over to call her husband down from his study. "Dave, dinner's ready."
As I sit there, watching her watch him eat the nourishment and beam when he approves, it's clear that every meal and every moment in her kitchen has become more than a meal or a moment-- it's become an act of love and purpose.