Food is our fuel, necessary for survival, but food is so much more than that. It’s the memories that swirl around foods from childhood; the smells of comfort from chicken soup on the stove, bread in the oven, cookies cooling on the counter; the taste of some new spice or flavor exploding on your tongue – remember when you first had Thai food? or tikka masala? or real enchiladas verde? Wow. Tastes, smells, memories, even the feeling that you were eating something really nutritious that your body craved or really decadent that you knew was a special treat are all wrapped up in the fuel that we burn to stay alive.

Sometimes I wish that we could just open the same ol’ can of cat food, or eat elven lembas bread just to fuel up when I don’t feel like cooking or even thinking about food. But the many times that Rob emphatically says, “We have such a good life!,” aren’t when he is cleaning out the chicken coops or digging post holes on the farm, but when he is in the kitchen, filling his plate with one of his favorite foods.

So that is what I want to express – the gratitude of our peace and plenty in being able to enjoy all the bounty from our farm and provisions from our grocery stores. We are so lucky to have the opportunity to go into a grocery store and see the abundance of food available to us, food from all over the world. We can try string cheeses from Armenia, olive oils from Italy or California, fruit and nuts from Israel, noodles from China, chiles, avocados, fruits and vegetables from Mexico, fish from Alaska or South America, chocolates from Europe or Africa. But even more important, we now have so many small farms and food crafters in America, so buying closer to home, even buying locally, provides a wide array of specialty foods from cheese, meats and breads to designer chocolates, homegrown saffron and heritage tomatoes or apples that are never in stores.

Buying locally supports our small farmers, which is good in so many ways, from knowing that your food hasn’t been on a supertanker for weeks stuck in the Suez Canal, or flown in from the other side of the globe causing more air pollution to the satisfaction of helping one farm family earn a fulfilling living to seeing crops and fields rather than construction of more Family Dollars on a once-beautiful farm. (Buying locally is an issue for a whole ‘nother article.)

When our grandmothers were making their weekly menus, it was often a rotation of the same meals: chicken dinner on Sundays, meatloaf on Mondays, pork chops on Tuesdays, etc. That is because the availability of food was not as expansive as what we have today. It was because the idea of cooking a tofu stir fry didn’t even come into the minds of women who rarely travelled outside their own communities. It was because that was the way they were taught by their mothers. Italian food was a exotic cuisine in the middle of last century. Mexican food was not even found outside of Mexican border states, Chinese restaurants existed and customers would venture to try refried rice or chop suey, but spicy Korean dishes, sushi restaurants or hot Thai coconut curries weren’t available to most Americans until the last 25 years or so.

Recently I was talking to a young woman about cooking and mentioned fish sauce, a staple in my kitchen now, but something I’d never heard of 20 years ago. She was as familiar with that as she was with catsup. She had a microplaner, something I only discovered about ten years ago, and she knew how to make Vietnamese spring rolls. This was a young woman who was a casual cook, very busy with her career and social life, but she was aware of food, food trends and cooking gadgets. A different generation than mine or my grandmother’s, for sure.

Food, food preparation and food familiarity has changed so much in the last couple of decades and now everyone in the trade is trying to come up with the next big thing. Or revamping the old favorites to showcase for a new generation.

Shrubs, fritters and doughbuts, grilled cheese, chicken broth – all these foods from our youth or our grandparent’s youths are back on the menu as something to be marveled at. But when I think of what to serve my family and friends, I think first of what they love, second of what I have in the freezer or can get at the store (and if I will be near a store that sells the fresh ingredients I want for that dish – we live in the boonies and that is a very big glitch in a lot of my cooking plans), and third, for a special treat, what is an entrée or dessert that I will want to spend the day making and hope that it comes out as good as the recipe claims.

So, although I do not make pork chops every Tuesday like my grandmother may have, I do have many recipes that come out often. Chicken Française, pasta carbonara, chicken soup or chicken casserole with biscuits, salmon poached in green coconut curry sauce, tabbouleh or pasta salad are some of the favorites that never fail to satisfy.

On those days that we can spend a bit more time on preparing food while listening to our favorite music, and we can enjoy the comfort of being in our own kitchens with those we love (or tolerate!) coming over to enjoy the fruits of our labor, we should take a moment to feel the gratitude of our bounty and give thanks and our full measure of appreciation for the peace and plenty in our lives. So prepare your food with love and gratitude, giving thanks for the peace and plenty in your lives.





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