Food. It’s a simple noun that carries so much weight, and means something different to every person you ask. On a basic level, food is a necessity; food powers our bodies and structures our days, but on a deeper level, food is so much more. It binds countries, cultures, towns, and families. Food brings us together as humans, and whether your family was raised on burgers and barbeque here in America or tikka masala in India, meals shared are memories made.
In this series, I’m going to speak with people across campus to see what food means to them, and I could not think of a more fitting start than to investigate the motivation behind this series – my own experience with food.
I’ve been very thankful to have a family that loves to cook; my waistline may not be as thankful, but that is a different issue entirely. My mother is a classic southern cook through and through. Taught by my grandmother, whose coleslaw was “famous throughout the south” as she would say, Mom makes everything from cornbread muffins, cheese grits, and the aforementioned slaw to a whole rack of ribs or a pot of seafood gumbo.
While my mother keeps the southern staples on the table, my father cooks from a more international cookbook with Thai specialties like basil and cashew chicken.
Both certainly have their specialties, but I’m lucky that they can cook just about anything you ask. I’ve never come home to a bad meal, and more often than not, it’s a great meal. Their passion for cooking is reflected in the quality of their food, and that is something I have come to appreciate greatly over the years.
They taught me that coming to college doesn’t mean I have to stop eating well, and gave me the tools – skill-wise and kitchen-wise – to cook for myself. They taught me that the best food is the food you make yourself. And most importantly, they taught me that food is a great excuse to make someone else happy.
Cooking gives you an opportunity to give someone else that “oh my God, this is the best thing I’ve ever tasted” look on their face, and I can honestly say there’s not a lot more gratifying than seeing someone love your food.
When I think about food, it’s hard to pick out a single memory because my family has done an amazing job of making too many to count. When we lived in Washington D.C., I would fly to Louisiana and spend summers with my grandmother Pat in Ruston. Pat Evans taught my mother everything she knows about cooking, and she taught me quite a few things too before she passed away.
I remember waking up early one morning and bugging her to make some breakfast for the both of us. After rummaging around in the freezer and fridge for possible options, she jokingly pulls out a tub of Blue Bell coffee ice cream and says, “It’s Saturday, let’s just have ice cream for breakfast.” I laughed and she laughed, and I told her that’s not breakfast food, we can’t have that.
She just laughed again and told me that it doesn’t matter what you’re eating, food is just an opportunity to spend time with the people you love. Ice cream for breakfast or breakfast for dinner, food isn’t always about what’s on the table, to me, it’s about the people you’re sharing it with.