I often wonder about this. I don’t mean the food-love connection in the romantic or even sexual way. It’s more of what I remember from my own upbringing and how I see myself and the rest of my siblings impart the same on the next generation. We show love through food.
I don’t have kids but I am —ehem!—a super aunt. And from early on I saw the same patterns in me as I did from my grandmother, the woman who I give credit for raising me—my mom naturally bristles when I say my lola raised me but this will just have to be our secret.
I associate caring and loving for my little pests with feeding them good food. I get to hang with my brother’s kids every weekend and they also spend school breaks with me or my sister. I let them indulge in some treats they wouldn’t normally have (an issue of availability), sometimes cook what I hope are nutrition-packed meals—if I’m being honest, many times I just make the “lesser evil” versions of the stuff they love—that taste great, and continuously pound in the importance of eating their veggies. But beyond spoiling my niece and nephew with good eats, I really think that showing love though food is a concept that resonates with people across borders and cultures.
When I was growing up, I associated my lola’s cooking with caring. She loved me so she fed me food that would nourish me and help me grow up strong. She prepared special dishes to mark special events like my favorites on my birthday to make me feel celebrated. She made soup or porridge when I got sick to help nurse me back to health. I suppose it’s practically impossible to go against my programming and really, I don’t see any reason to.
This caring through food extends beyond my family. I often think about soup kitchens and similar programs that aren’t in existence here. While I have, on a few occasions, participated in outreach efforts comparable to those, actual preparation and distribution of food for the same reason is something that calls to me.
I remember reading an article a long, long time ago about a husband and wife team who cooked a huge pot of lugaw—rice porridge often prepared with chicken—every Sunday and brought it to a depressed area to serve to kids. I don’t remember if the article mentioned why they did it. All I remember is that the kids got a special treat on Sunday mornings, a hot bowl of food prepared especially for them. That’s one of the earliest food-love connection I can remember outside my own family.