The book I am currently listening to, The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, has a part where it discusses our own personal books, and it states or quotes or somethings that everyone has a personal recipe book. It talks about the food that is made for everyone that ends up being for no one. The mass marketed food that no one enjoys, but then there is the opposite. The food that feels like it was made just for you. The food of your soul.
We all have a recipe book. We build it and fill its pages through our lives. Food connects us. It connects us as people across cultures and through time. Through food we can taste life in another country but also in another time. We can taste another person’s experience.
There was a time in college where someone made their grandmother’s jerk chicken. As they cooked they told us about their grandmother and her experience in coming to America from Jamaica and what the food meant to her. I remember them telling me that their grandmother would have liked us because we liked her chicken.
The recipes we contain within us is our best way to share a part of ourselves with another person. It is the easiest way we have to connect. It is why it is important to cook for guests and to take food to gatherings. Cooking is like taking a piece of your soul out and letting someone else sample your very being. Your essence.
I thought about a couple of my personal recipes driving home this evening. I made one of them today. The Williamsburg ginger cakes. I can’t remember the first time I had these cookies but I have made a habit of going to Williamsburg once a year during the fall or winter season in order to get hot apple cider and ginger cakes.
Making them at home is a way for me to take this experience and bake me a memory. I am taking a part of myself out and forming it into food, and anyone I share this food with is then consuming my experience.
The other recipe I thought of today was my mother’s orange salad. She made it every year for Christmas dinner. I don’t know the exact recipe and I asked her today and she told me that when I told her it was gelatin, Mandarin oranges, and crushed pineapple topped with Cool Whip she told me that was probably correct.
Important moments, important life events, are often paired with food. From that special birthday steak to prom night jambalaya to wedding reception bbq to Thanksgiving baked apples and so forth and so on. Our lives are full of recipes, and each is attached to a memory, an event, we wish to relive in some small way. Whether it is the jerk chicken that reminds us of grandma or the crab cakes that remind us of falling in love with our significant other our lives are full of personal soul food.