Recently, after a long day of cooking, I took to my Facebook page and posted the following message: “In all my travels, I have been to my fair share of holy sites—St. Peter’s in Rome, the monastery of St. Clare, the vast and various beautiful scenes offered in national parks around the country. None of them have come close to the sacred feeling I get in my mom’s kitchen, though. It is where I feel the closest to her and where I am most at home. She and I have been cooking in there together all day—just like we used to. There is no grief, only peace and happiness.”
When I lost my mom nine years ago, cooking with her was one of the things I missed most. I still do. It was our connection—the master and the student. Following her death, my family and I moved into my parents’ home to help care for my father, and we never left. Over time, we began to put our own stamp on this house I had grown up in, making it feel like our own—except for the kitchen. That will always be my mom’s, no matter how long we are here or what we do to it. We are just using it.
When I am in there, I find myself commiserating with her over things like the lack of counter space. I have cried at times, selfishly wanting to once again witness her skill and wishing I could ask her a question that I knew she would have the answer to.
Over time, my husband, Mark, and I have made some updates to the space, fulfilling some of my mom’s long-desired wishes. But even with all those things we have done, it still feels incomplete. I suspect it always will feel that way without her in there. And yet, in so many ways, she is.
My mom is there every time I make one of her recipes. Her handwritten comments on the weathered and stained recipe cards serve as my road map. When I have questions, I try to see them as her nudging me to trust myself. Sometimes it works out; other times not. But, in the end, I know that I will nourish someone—maybe physically or maybe in spirit.
Bread Broken and Shared
A few weeks ago, my sisters and I were discussing our memories of growing up. And even though we each had different recollections, we all had one memory in common. That memory was how often my mom would welcome people into our home to share a meal. We recalled Sunday dinners with our grandparents and the elaborate snacks she prepared when our friends would come over. She sent meals to people in times of need. We even had stories of her inviting some of our college friends, whom she barely knew, to dinner just because we told her they had no family in the area. We knew that anyone we brought to the table would be welcomed and fed.
Food was my mom’s love language. Perhaps that’s why I feel her love the most in my—I mean her—kitchen. That is exactly why I was spending the day in the kitchen when I wrote that Facebook post. And so I walked into that small, flawed kitchen, collected the things I needed, and greeted my mom. We worked together peacefully and quietly. At the end of the day, I had been nourished emotionally and spiritually, and my friends and family were able to enjoy the work of our hands—mine and my mom’s.