This weekend- in honor of the chilly weather, my focus on action, and my desire to make food for my family, I cooked up a bit pot of kale soup, one of my absolute favorites. It’s not a soup I grew up eating all that much of or even that we had a lot of in the house, but this is one of the many foods that I make now that makes me feel connected to my family.
Just today I was listening to an NPR report on memory and food and the role it plays in family life and one caller described her Southern mother’s kitchen as a ‘benevolent dictatorship.’ The author of the new book who was the subject of the program said he grew up in a kitchen democracy where everyone contributed. That definitely was my household too- though I think my dad and brother would say my mother and I can be pretty militant on Thanksgiving!
Growing up in a predominately Portuguese area and being half Portuguese, I took for granted a lot of the foods that were a regular part of my life like sweetbread or chourico and peppers. When I went away to college and being Portuguese was a diverse ethnic background, I came to have a new appreciation for the food and culture I grew up with. Going to Portuguese restaurants has become part of the regular restaurant lineup and cooking Portuguese foods is something I try on a frequent basis. Last Christmas my aunt bought me an Azorean cookbook and I’ve enjoyed slowly making my way through it.
As a child, I watched both parents and my paternal grandparents frequently in the kitchen. Both households involved the men pulling their own weight in the kitchen- my grandfather made the best Portuguese baked beans, among many other things, and my Dad had ( and has!) a long list of kitchen specialities. The joke between my brother and I growing up is that my father’s macaroni & cheese far surpassed my mother’s. As with many families, food is at the center of so many memories and occasions and we take great pride in family recipes like the specialty Portuguese stuffing for THanksgiving, my mother’s lemon lush, or my Aunt Cindy’s pasta salad. It’s not even that these things are landmark culinary creations ( though the Thanksgiving stuffing, I think, is mindblowinging amazing, though I am half responsible for its creation now), but the food just brings great feelings of love, laughter, and great times.
In the past few years, my family has been undergoing a bit of a food renaissance if you will. It may be that this was going on all the time with my aunt and father, but because I was never that interested in cooking ( or any good at it!), I just never noticed that they were in the kitchen more trying new recipes. My father has become quite the chef extraordinaire ( his zucchini cakes and ribs will change your life) and my aunt and I frequently email back and forth with new recipes we find. I love having this extra added element of food enjoyment in my life- cooking and creating in the kitchen has become one of my favorite things to do, so to be able to share it with my family is even more profound.