Guest Author: Susanne Skinner
“People who love to eat are always the best people.”
Food and I have a life-long relationship. We go way back. My love of preparing and serving food is a straight-line inheritance from my mom and her mom. Both were creative cooks and bakers with the uncanny ability to make something from nothing. They taught me the meaning of the word homemade. My mom’s chicken soup could heal the world.
Food becomes part of our lives the moment we’re born. It’s a love language that speaks to all five senses and we cannot live without it. My love of cooking (especially baking) began in my mom’s kitchen and evolved through books, classes, family traditions and friends who share my passion. Recipe sharing, critiques and the occasional samples are weekly occurrences in my circle of foodie friends. We know how to raise the bar!
Back in the day, there were two well-known publications devoted to food: Bon Appetit and Gourmet. Gourmet faded away in 2009 but Bon Appetit continues its printed publication and recipe web site Epicurious.The median age of this audience is 48.4, of which 74% are female, 46% have college degrees, 36% work in professional/managerial jobs and 59% are married. They make it their business to know who’s doing the cooking.
In 1993 cable television launched The Food Network, a channel devoted exclusively to cooking. That’s when I knew people were taking food seriously. It wasn’t just about cooking food; it was about buying the freshest ingredients and discovering unique seasonings and flavor combinations. They celebrated food with programs that made cooking fun. It suggested a shift from cooking as a necessity or hobby to a full-blown industry and life style. To a foodie like me, this was nirvana. The thing I loved to do most was officially recognized by the entertainment industry and it was one remote click away.
Purchasing ingredients is just as much fun as preparing them. My retail therapy is a toss-up between a kitchen store and a grocery store, where I can find countless hours of distraction, discovery and inspiration. A field trip to Wegmans, Whole Foods or their love child Trader Joe’s will lift my spirits on the worst of days.
Ingredients and seasonings bring food to life. When I am cooking or baking I envision how it will taste and what the finished product will look like. Presentation, garnishes and color balancing are details that consume a great deal of thought, not to mention dishes and serving pieces. The way a meal is served is as important to me as the work that went into its creation. I have a lot of dishes. It’s a thing.
Preparing food is directly related to the enjoyment of eating it. We eat first with our senses. The fragrance and appearance of food speaks to us in a language everyone understands. Investing in the best spices and flavorings brings a meal to life before the first bite is ever taken. My spice cupboard (a depression-era Hoosier cabinet) reflects my love of seasonings and a retail therapy addiction to Penzey’s Spices. Click it – you know you want to!
Food brings people together and expresses emotion. It’s our go-to accompaniment for celebrations and a good stand in when we are at a loss for words. A pan of chocolate chip cookie dough brownies won’t take away someone’s pain but, when eaten with a friend, shares so much more than brownies.
When we are happy, we eat. When we are sad, we eat. When we are lonely or stressed and especially when we are hungry – we eat. Food comforts us and offers us a way to comfort others It embodies the memories of people and experiences we have encountered throughout our lives. In our family, food is at the center of our lives. It is a way to expresses love, encouragement, comfort, joy, and any other reason (even made up ones) we can find to bring people to the table.
Gather Round the Table
In years gone by, the family dinner table was the place to meet. The dining room table and good dishes were involved; attendance was mandatory. Sharing a meal was a time for everyone to come together with a plate of food as their common denominator. Eating together kept the family connected and maintained traditions. In my family we still connect this way – not as often as we’d like due to distances and schedules – but always around a good meal, made with love and served on dishes passed down from mothers and grandmothers. It is a place where memories are made.
Traditions allow us to keep family recipes alive, complete with their history and some great stories. Much-loved recipes offer a sense of appreciation for the traditions of those to whom they connect us. This is especially true for me during the holidays. Although my Mom has been gone for 12 years, when I am making Christmas cookies I learned to bake in her kitchen, she is right there with me.
Everyone understands food. It is a universal language that allows us to set aside our differences and find common ground. When you are speaking the language of food, nothing gets lost in translation.
Love People, Cook Them Tasty Food ~
Penzey’s bumper sticker