Recently I've been writing a lot about my family, and to get into the spirit I've been doing little exercises to loosen my mind and let the flood of memories come in. One area I've concentrated on is food. I love food. I love to cook it. I love to eat it. I love to write about it. In my family there is nothing more important than food. It is what links all of the best and worst memories of my life together. When I graduated college, one of the greatest times of my life, my mother catered a party for me and the food was spectacular. When I was the sickest I've ever been in my life, six years old with Leukemia, I would routinely call my mother at 3:00a.m. requesting a meal of black eyed peas and Spahgetti-O's because that's all that tasted good to me. All the great times, all the sorrow, everything can be reduced down to a meal if I think about it hard enough.
One afternoon I did an exercise. I posed a question to myself – The earth is about to blink out of existence. Before the end, I get to have all the great cooks of my family (dead or alive) cook me one more thing. What would I have them cook? This exercise hits deeper than the traditional "What's your favorite food" question because it makes you not only consider everyone in your family who has any skill in the kitchen, but also what is the one thing out of everything they cook that you'd want, and if you're family is anything like mine that's a hard thing to do. You have to calculate, narrow, and delve deep into your memory to remember all the times you felt happy when you ate something. I also began to realize that often what I thought would be my first choice would usually take second chair to something simpler and basic. In essence, it was the perfect road to let all sorts of memory come back into being, and it had exactly the desired effect I'd been searching for.
When I finished I realized that all the foods I'd chosen were biased to my own preferences, that they may not be the preferences of mysisters, or my mother, or anyone else in my family. I wanted to hear their side of it to. And when I thought about what their responses might be, I thought of all the people I know that have people in their lives that can cook, and all the things they might love, and I wanted to hear what they had to say too. Quickly, this was becoming more than a mere memory exercise. It was becoming a living composition. I'm pleased to tell youthat I have made all the choices, and have decided to post them in parts:
Part I – My Mother Lindy Gipson
Part II – My Father Don Gipson
Part III – My Grandmother Anita "Mamo" Longan
Part IV – My Grandfather Fred "Papa" Longan
Part V – My Oldest Sister Beth Schmidt
Part VI – My Middle Sister Becky Hopper
Part VII – My Grandmother LaVera Gipson
There will be a Part VIII for my brother Donovan Edwards, but it will be some time coming. The man can cook, but I haven't eaten enough of his food yet to decide on a favorite.
As I post these, I invite anyone reading them to share their own memories of food in their families, or to try this exercise for themselves.
I hope you enjoy.