An invitation to explore the healing power, joy and possibility for connection made available to us when we gather around food with our families and our community
“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of
innocence and delight.” –M.F.K. Fisher
When I first learned my father had died, all I could think to do was go into my kitchen and bake a fresh loaf of bread from scratch. The mixing of ingredients, the kneading of the dough, the warming of the oven and then the rising and baking of the bread encouraged inner reflection.
We gathered in the kitchen to talk about the precious memories I had of time spent with my father. The freshly baked warm bread not only invited us to come together but also sustained us through one of life’s difficult transitions – the death of a loved one. A small stream of tears flowed into and around the cooling bread. We tore off small pieces and dipped them in herbed olive oil. Lighter hearts returned because food so often has that profound way of releasing what troubles us and brings us closer together.
Life marches forward and we have to eat.
Recently, when my teenagers and their dad were in a scary car accident and were really shaken up from it, I decided to bake for them. It wasn’t until the next morning – when I woke extra early and made warm, buttery croissants with chocolate – did I realize that making them a special breakfast before they went off to school didn’t change what had happened, but it helped.
When a life-long friend’s daughter graduated from high school I sent a batch of homemade cookies. She called as soon as they arrived to say how much my unexpected gift meant to her. We talked on the phone for over an hour.
Food as gift is a deeply powerful yet incredibly simple way to show others we care. And what about the promise of food as a way to gather and grow together as a community? Season after season, Cape Codders foster the creation of community through gathering around food. In making my decision to move here year-round, I was drawn to the natural beauty. But like many others who decide to make Cape Cod home, I wondered how I could connect to the community in a way that felt rewarding and sustaining. Cape Codders, it seems, embrace the special art of food as gift as if it’s their unique way to bond against the elements. Through the gifting of food “I” becomes “We.” We no longer feel alone when gathering around a shared meal.
There is a wonderful intersection between food and community that draws people together. When we wanted to meet people and find new friends for our children soon after we moved into our new home, we looked for community events that served food because it offered a welcome invitation. We attended the spaghetti dinner at my daughter’s elementary school, the pancake breakfast at the middle school, and the annual dessert auction to raise money for kids to go to camp at our local church. At each event people talked, shared and laughed while eating and enjoying good food.
The first neighborhood potluck we attended was a wonderful opportunity to get to know our neighbors. I brought my spinach and feta quiche and a large pot of tomato and tortellini soup. Conversations began over the little things like how tasty and light the quiche was, or whether I would be willing to share my soup recipe. We learned so many things about the neighborhood and about our neighbors that night over casual conversation. By the time dessert was served, I not only made new friends who shared my love for baking, but received the promise of two or three good cookie and cake recipes I’d soon try in my own kitchen.
Equally transformative to the healing power, joy and possibility for connection made available to us when we gather around good food, is the gift of a good recipe. If someone can’t cook for you personally, they can still share with you the foods they love. By sharing a favorite recipe they invite you into a special part of who they are.
I offer you the gift of two recipes, and with them the opportunity to cook for someone who matters to you. With that comes the invitation for you to look for ways you can share food with your friends, family and your larger community.
From Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen, by Linda Steele
Bake your own pie crust or use a pre-made refrigerated one from your grocer’s freezer. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sauté in a skillet pan that’s been coated with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 cups fresh or frozen finely chopped spinach, 1 small onion finely chopped and a medium-sized tomato finely chopped, for about three minutes or until onions become tender.
Cover bottom of crust with 1½ cups of freshly grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese and ½ cup feta cheese crumbles. Spoon vegetable mixture of cheese.
In small bowl mix together 3 eggs, 1 cup milk, 3 tablespoons flour and ¼ teaspoon salt. Beat well until eggs are light and fluffy and pour on cheese and vegetables. Place in the oven. Bake quiche for 40-45 minutes or until solid in center when jiggled.
From Linda’s Hearth, a private collection of recipes shared as a Christmas gift to friends and family
8 cups water
2 cubes vegetable bouillon
3 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sage
1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
4 medium tomatoes, chopped fine
1 pound fresh or frozen cheese-filled tortellini
For topping, grated fresh pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh parsley
In a pot bring the water and bouillon to a boil. In a small pan on low heat gently sauté the garlic in olive oil, taking care not to let it brown. Add the paprika, sage and thyme to the pot, and then add in the sauteed garlic. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes (longer for stronger flavor). Add the chopped tomatoes. Cook the tortellini until al dente; drain. When you are ready to serve place the tortellini in individual serving bowls and ladle the soup over them. Serve topped with grated cheese and parsley.
from May all be Fed,
included in the collection, Linda’s Hearth
“The food which we are about to
eat is earth, water and sun,
compounded through the alchemy
of many plants.
Therefore, earth, water and sun will become part of us.
The food is also the fruit of the labor
of many beings and creatures.
We are grateful for it.
May it give us strength, health, joy.
And may it increase our love.”
Written By Linda Maria Steele, Fall 2011
Linda Maria Steele is a mother, baker, writer and teacher who lives in Falmouth. She founded West Falmouth Baking Company in 2006 and has published a cookbook titled “Meet Me in My Cape Cod Kitchen.” You can follow her ongoing baking adventures at: www.westfalmouthbakingcompany.blogspot.com