When I was growing up my mom would always be making food to feed people that were coming over. Many times poeple would just come over and my mom would feed them. Sometimes people weren't hungry and my mom still fed them. Other times people were completely stuffed and my mom still fed them. And there were times that I would interject on their behalf and try to tell my mom that they didn't want any more food to which her response was to tell me to hush. I remember thinking she was a little crazy and now what I realize is that food was a way to love.
Food love is not so unusal. Some people eat to love themselves. Some people eat with others to show love. Some people make food with love. Holidays are filled with food, therefore this is not a revolutionary idea but when I look at my most favorite memories of family it really is all about the food. It has been years since I have been to Miami for Christmas (and it's still not quite Christmas without going there) but I remember that the moment we arrive to my Aunt's house my uncle was frying up fresh fish. I would delightfully sit and eat with my hands peeling off the lime soaked meat right off the bone allowing it to dance a bit in my mouth to make sure no tiny fish bones were swallowed. As we ate my Aunt and my mom would start talking about what we were going to eat for dinner and as we finished dinner they were making plans for breakfast.
In the dark hours of Christmas Eve morning my dad and uncle would get up to put the pig on the fire. All day there were preparations of food being down black beans soaking, yucca being deveined, cheeses being cut, salads tossed, breads bought and piled. The memories of walking into the kitchen and say "Tia!" (meaning Aunt) and having 5-6 women turning around ready to help responding with "Si?" Meanwhile, we ate. We had breakfast and lunch and of course the feast of food for dinner. We started eating at 6pm and didn't seem to top until 8pm (when the dancing started and kept going until 3am when we ate again.) Christmas morning we would go and have a breakfast feast and a big soup for lunch and another dinner.
Food. It shapes almost every memory, not just for me, but for many of us. Perhaps this is why I struggle so much when Lydia doesn't feel like eating. In a million years I never thought that I would be that mom. But it is something primal about your baby not eating. Lydia eats what she wants when she wants it. The other day a friend came over and her little one ate beans, peas and sweet potatoes so sweetly and diligently. I was a little jealous of how well she ate. Lydia coyly pretends to put things in her mouth and then will drop them on the floor when she isn't interested. She likes macaroni and cheese for sure but all other things are a case by case basis. I worry about what she eats that some how her carb filled diet will lead to diabetes and hypertention in 40 years. I worry about the fact that she doesn't consume enough calories and she could be hungry or that cheese may stunt her growth. I worry that she won't like a lot of foods and she will miss the richness of life without it. So I find myself repeating a familiar phrase of my mother's "Eat! Eat!"