Thursday, December 17, 2015

Meeting Sweet Success

Ermagersh, I met one of my idols this weekend. I’ve been stalking following Sara for years on her blog Sweet Success and last week she proposed we meet while she was in town over the weekend. We went for coffee at The Coffee House and I have to admit, I got ready for this thing like it was a date with a dude. I was so excited to meet her and she did not disappoint!

Inside I'm totally geeking out, I heart her.

I felt self-conscious at first as I tried to establish commonalities, namely our mutual friend, Tiff, but Sara was wholly at ease and once we sat down with our cuppas, we fell to chatting like old friends. I instantly liked Sara’s friendly but frank demeanor; she gives the impression that whatever there is to say she will cut through the crap and get down to brass tacks. So I felt comfortable asking her questions about her blog process, her ongoing journey to health, and her thoughts on food and let me tell you, this chick is quotable. I took a lot of notes and could fill a whole post with the nuggets of knowledge she shared but I’ll share just the ones that affected me this week (I'll share more in future posts).

At some point, I explained to her, embarrassed even as the words left my mouth, “I love food like a friend—the tastes of certain foods and the sheer volumes of those foods make me so happy. I have been plateauing for months because I have these moments where I’ve just ‘gotta have it.’”

Her nodding and response demonstrated that she truly understood, “The way we eat is so much deeper than we know, it’s not a simple act because we all eat food as life happens: birthday parties, weddings, and holidays…food is a part of them. And I think we all use food to comfort ourselves; it reminds us of things like moments from our childhood or a memory of traveling somewhere.” She added:
I was surprised how this fit, health-centered woman before me talked about food with a sense of peace and acceptance. I am not in a place yet where all food is my friend but I am working toward that. Sara’s words helped me make a step in the right direction and I love her for it. Especially this week, which was filled with emotional cooking and eating. I prepared three of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes: buttercrisps, gingerbread, and forgotten kisses.

I pulled out my mom’s recipe box with reverence and walked my fingers over the tops of the cards, their edges softened by years of use. I was greeted by the handwriting of little-known great aunts, my sweet grandma’s looping cursive, and my mom’s awkward manuscript lettering as she used all cursive when she wrote excepting recipes. One year, Mom copied our family's cookie recipes and loaded them into their own little album. Remembering that the original gingerbread recipe card had been missing from her box for years, I pulled out her cookie book and found the recipe. I scanned the card and a solid lump formed in my throat, then I turned it around and noticed the baking temp and duration were missing! I said out loud "what the heck?" and was instantly annoyed. My comment drew Jordan's attention and he came to the kitchen to check on me. I reread the card to make sure I hadn't missed it. I explained to him what was wrong and felt my face grew hot as tears filled my eyes.
I needed to know how long to bake the damn cookies; I'm a good baker because I follow recipes carefully and Mom left me there without all the information I needed. She wasn't there to help and she'd never be there to answer my mundane questions again. Jordan knew without asking what was really wrong and pulled me to him crushing the book between us. I let him hold me as I choked out another emotional trigger: I told him that when I read her handwriting now I only hear her voice as if it were far away or underwater. I used to hear her voice as clearly as if she were beside me when I read her words. I cried in Jordan's arms and only stopped when he gently teased out a smile first then laughter by cracking a small joke or two as he scrubbed up to help me bake.

Eventually, I dried up and set to work on creaming the butter and the sugar taking a measure of comfort in the fact that I was part of a bigger tradition; the motions of my hands, the Pyrex measuring cups, and the brand of molasses (Grandma's) I use are all hers. I also felt warmed by the thought that I was annoyed with my mom for the first time in years. I felt an emotion toward her that wasn't sorrow, grief, or fond remembrance; it was pure irritation and it felt so good and real.

Sara was right. Food is so much more than just food. It's that time of year where you can taste your memories. You know if someone didn't put together a Christmas dish just right or smell if the cookies aren’t baked to the right point of doneness (we have to have one batch a little underdone (Jordan) and one pretty burnt (Dad) to please everyone). I’m not proud to tell you that most of the cookies we baked are already eaten, mostly by me. I know I created more work for myself but I don’t feel much regret. Every step of the process, from preparing to eating these foods made me feel something good. Jordan and I will be balancing these treats with foods that make our bodies happy in the upcoming weeks with healthy choices too but for now, I’m embracing the tastes that make my holidays whole and I wish you all the same.

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