By Jennifer Kiko
I have a bruised and battered drop-leaf table in the middle of my kitchen. It was a gift from friends who downsized and headed south. The table bears old burns and recent water rings. It’s dented and scraped, with a loose board in the center. It serves as a holding area for family clutter and social hot spot for giggling teenagers. It captures kitchen clutter and most recently, held a 25 lb. bag of milk replacer for an orphaned calf.
More often than not there is a bowl of apples in the center of the table. My grandparents made a living from fruits and vegetables, and my parents followed suit. Apples were and continue to be a family mainstay. They have influenced each of our lives in one way or another. Maybe that’s why Grandma’s apple cake recipe is the tasteful memory shared by everyone in the family. It’s not just dessert; it’s a story that continues to speak for her, bringing comfort and joy to the next generations.
Sometimes I wonder what fond memories my children will recall when they gather. Will there be apple cake? Maybe. Will there be a fondness for days gone by – birthdays and Christmas dinners, or Saturday morning breakfasts and family cooking competitions? I hope so! Perhaps there will be a particular pot roast or beef stew that keeps them at the table, chatting late into the night.
Beef is the main dish in my family food story. My husband and I work for the same beef company. We use our varied skills and enthusiasm to share farm to fork beef stories. I’ve been blessed with several opportunities to bring food conversations to life. The best place to start always seems to begin and end around the table.
Maybe that’s why I love to cook. Preparing a meal is one of the best ways I know to show someone how dear they are, how much they matter. Food meets a need, fills a heart and hopefully, provides a blessing. Sage advice for life, love and the pursuit of happiness: never underestimate the power of a warm meal. It’s not always easy to have dinner ready and waiting — trust me, I know!
The next time you’re elbow-deep in a sink full of dirty dishes with the weight of the world on your shoulders, remember: Life is messy. Loving others can be hard. Caring can be a thankless enterprise. But time time spent at the table may change the course of someone’s life in ways we can’t even imagine.
The definition of sustenance is food and drink as a source of strength or nourishment; the maintaining of someone or something in life or existence.
Keep cooking. Keep stirring. Mix on, my friend. Your dish, however humble or complex, may provide the memory that sustains someone in life or existence. And that’s definitely food for thought.
So celebrate time together. Feast in good company. Share a recipe, pass a plate, pull up a chair and oh, grab a fork! There’s cake for dessert.
(Jennifer Kiko lives in Carroll County with her husband, kids and barnyard menagerie. She’s a writer, blogger and amateur photographer, and keeps life interesting with too many irons in the fire. She can be found at FarmgirlFollies.com, or doing her day job at GoRare.com.)
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