My mother (who is an ‘un-mother’ now that I reflect upon it) - her relationship to food and cooking was non-conforming to traditional gender roles. Remember when Hillary Clinton made some offhand comment about housewives and later that week she was baking cookies in public as a campaign tactic? (Other than being women this is probably the only thing my mother and Secretary Clinton have in common, truth). Even her way of talking about being a mother was rebellious and trans-mothering. LIke a number of single female heads of household, they play both roles of mother and father. She had three rules (which I’ll talk about in Values & Ideals---which is on the same mental plane as Food and Aligning With Intention).
My mother was not a hovering mother, like I said, her three rules covered the basics. She didn’t have to tell me to do my homework. I was a geek who liked school. She didn’t hover or speak about nutrition, per se. She did not like to cook. She loved black pepper. So much so that I learned to cook at age six. Partially due to not liking pepper, but I liked to be in control of what I ate and how it tasted. I saw my other friends’ mothers and my own grandmother enjoy being in the kitchen---or at least give the impression that they did. The smells, conversations and the delight when someone enjoyed what was prepared, I liked. Cherry’s mothering came through in how she treated every child with decency and respect. She often says that she brings ‘the conversation to every meal’. She did---and still does. Even though she wasn’t traditional, she did have a way with speaking to all of my friends and children in the neighborhood. Her generosity of spirit also led her to foster other children in our neighborhood--two young men in particular, Wardene and Dwight.
It was at my father’s house where I observed my bonus (step) mother, Daisy, cook in their kitchen. Later my father’s third wife, Cheryal, would school me in the nuances of cooking gumbo, ham and other holiday food delicacies. To this day, Cheryal is a ‘go to’ for any dish, soul food or not---I’ve learned to trust that her food instincts are impeccable.
My great grandmother, Gee (not short for ‘gangster’, although she took no mess), worked as the Cafeteria Manager at my high school. She was employed years before I attended Cass Technical, but she often told stories of how she made different recipes stretch to feed the students (of where there could be several thousand at any given time). She was proud of how she made the food taste good, even in and especially in bulk. Her cooking at home was another story, and as she aged she’d cook less and less. She’d say that she didn’t want to cook for a small number of people, family or not. It would be her cooking (and forgetfulness) that caused her to remove the smoke alarms I had purchased for their home, only for her husband, my great grandfather, to die in a fire three months later. Their love was so immense that they both died on Easter nine years apart. She wanted to be able to cook her own food---decades later (and several ORM cycles) it is important that we allow our aging family to be as independent as possible for as long as possible. Sure, that is an ideal. What may actually be possible can often differ from a practical perspective---yet the importance of cooking and sharing food!
Each of these women had an influence on what food and cooking means to me. My mother would send me to the grocery store with a blank check. My older brothers would drive me. I learned how to write like my mother, so she didn’t even have to sign it. Wardene (our family’s unofficial historian) still says that without me and our grocery store runs, we would have starved. Definitely an exaggeration, but even now decades later, I am just choosing to learn how to work with a food budget. This means I have begun to look at what’s on sale before I arrive at the grocery store or I’ll go to the store that has something on sale that my family or I like and I buy it. But, food represented prosperity to me. Every week I had a literal blank check (no wonder my first degree is in Cost and Financial Accounting). To this day, I play this ‘Price Is Right’ game with myself and estimate how much I’ve spent without any aid from any app.
The idea of a preteen having a blank check to buy groceries set up an intention that food is rarely expensive. Even with hyperinflation, I manage to consciously control my spending (again, thanks to cycles of Our Raw Material). I can remember rewarding myself after my report cards with going to restaurants by my elementary school and ordering from them. I took myself out on ‘dates’ way before it was fashionable. As young as age six, I would send food back to the kitchen if it weren’t to my satisfaction. Talk about particular---so rigid at times I didn’t want my food to touch. As I’ve said, food symbolized control and prosperity. Even at my lower financial places in my life (hello, law school and temporary work afterwards), I would save from many a meager check to reward myself with a special snack or treat. My reasoning has been that food goes into your body, cannot work if you’re malnourished, and when you serve others you have to be at your best.
My library feeds me spiritual food. I own more books than I know what to do with. Ideally, every Mercury retrograde (three times a year for approximately three weeks), I re-read sections of books that I have not touched in over a year. Practically, though, I feed my soul on those books that I really enjoy. (Again, stay tuned for Values & Ideals---our next excursion into the Mental plane of Our Raw Material). Until then, bon appetit!