Stress has been my shadow for a long time. I’d like to think that I am of the resilient sort, which sometimes I am, but then again I go through periods in which food is used to comfort me. Food is associated with large, happy family gatherings where cousins, aunts and uncles gather to tell family stories that bind. I love food. The remembrance of biting into a ripe peach, the juice dripping down my chin as I lean forward to direct the drip stimulates my taste buds. Nothing’s better. Wait, maybe the pairing of vine ripened tomatoes, sliced thickly on a slab of fresh mozzarella, topped with basil leaves, dribbles of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkles of freshly cracked pepper and sea salt. I come from a long line of cooks. My grandmother would hoist me onto her yellow wooden step stool, me in an oversized apron. We would take turns stirring the thick chocolate chip cookie dough with a sturdy wooden spoon. My arm would ache as I stirred and she would steady the ceramic bowl. My grandmother could have baked without me, but she chose to mentor me, as did my mother. Early baking experiences with my mother always included stories about how her mother taught her the workings of the kitchen. Cooking has always been a bonding experience. To varying degrees all my children cook and bake.
When I think about the sensory pleasure that food provides, I am transported to times with family or dear friends. Food is a spiritual experience for me. It is not only the inclusion of the freshest ingredients, but the intention of the preparation, for it feeds both the body and the soul. It links me to past generations of cooks and bakers binding us as a family and to a place that I am happiest, in the kitchen. No wonder food is a comfort.