Preparing delicious food is not one of the official love languages, but,I have decided that it is definitely my language of love. Words of affirmation, Acts of service, Gifts, Quality time, and Physical touch. These are the five official languages, according to Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages. Although cooking could loosely be considered an Act of service, I suppose, I have decided to declare it (unofficially, of course, Mr. Chapman) the sixth love language.
I have been cooking for the ones I love for as long as I can remember. I started cooking as a young teenager, I recall one elaborate birthday dinner in particular, for my mom or dad, that included a homemade chocolate cake. I have always loved cooking, so utilizing it as a way to express my love comes naturally to me. I cooked for family, friends, classmates, coworkers, boyfriends, and now, for my children. I feel fortunate to have a talent and passion for something that brings so much pleasure and joy to others.
Cooking has always served me well. My children love this particular story of how I used my culinary prowess to get out of some dreaded work when I was getting my MBA at UCLA. It was in a particular mind-numbingly dull class in which I had no idea what was going on, half the time. To combat my boredom and confusion over the subject matter, I came up with what I thought was a rather brilliant solution. I would hold our group work meetings at my apartment and while my classmates poured through tedious financial calculations and spreadsheets, I would hide away in the kitchen, cooking a fabulous meal to nourish their hard-working minds. They were so grateful for the delicious meals that they didn't seem to notice I hadn't made a single contribution to the project. Admittedly, not completely above board, I do deserve a bit of credit for ingenuity. Shortly after graduating with my MBA, I went on to get my culinary degree from the CIA in New York. where I cooked to my heart's content.
As a mother, having strong culinary skills has paid off in spades. I cook at least ninety percent of our meals (which is rare these days, from what I hear) and have also taught my children to cook, so they too will be able to do the same for their families someday. Catherine and Graham are particularly adept in the kitchen, at the tender age of ten. My children love every kind of food, due to exposure, and are never afraid to try anything new, which is another wonderful benefit.
Most importantly, food, and the preparation of it, has become inextricably tied to the expression of love for my children. As a parent, some days go more smoothly than others, as we all know. On those not-so-smooth days, we, as parents, can feel riddled with guilt over our shortcomings. Yet, if I manage to prepare my children a wonderful meal at the end of the day, at least I can say that I have done one thing right that day. As they gobble down the food, with smiles on their faces, those difficult days feel a bit less difficult. And on the good days, such as holidays and other special occasions, delicious meals are just the cherry on top, no pun intended.
Perhaps I am only speaking for myself, but I think all of us would like to be able to speak all the languages of love. How wonderful that would be! However, my hunch is that is an unrealistic goal. I am fairly proficient in two of the languages, Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch. However, I knock it out of the park on my invented sixth language, cooking, so kudos to me! At the end of the day, we all do our best to make sure that those we love know they are loved and that our legacy is one of having been a good friend, daughter, mother, and human being. I am fairly certain that my kids will remember me in my entirety, flaws and all. However, my hope is that they can focus on the love I showered on through the preparation of good food and no matter what else they recall, they can evoke those memories of delicious meals we shared together.
School Valentine's preparation always starts weeks in advance. I am proud to say that my kids were the first to bring their Valentine's cards, treat bags, and homemade boxes to school, nearly a week and a half before the big day. We are an organized family! Garin even got in on the action, helping them sort out all the chocolates to go in the bags. It was bittersweet because this was Catherine and Graham's last year partaking in the tradition, as they will be graduating from elementary school later this year. As much work as it is for me, I will miss helping them pick their cards, stuff the bags, and everything else that is entailed in this yearly tradition.
Setting our Valentine's table is always great fun. The kids have gotten so good at setting our festive holiday tables that I no longer have to supervise. Another useful life skill. At my place was a heap of love letters from them to me. I relished in each and every one of them.
Graham designed this beautiful menu for our dinner.
In memory of my dear friend Barbara, I prepared Indian food for dinner (one of her favorite cuisines, as well as my kid's). It was a lot of work, but a huge hit.
For dessert, I made a strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting (I just couldn't resist making a pink cake for the occasion), that I used to make for my goddaughter, Bree, when she was a little girl. She still remembers it to this day and recently asked me for the recipe, proof that those food memories are indelible.
From the archives - a photo of me cooking as a teenage girl in our Harvest Gold kitchen from the 1970s.