July 6, 2010

The Food that Binds

A few years ago, I blogged about the bonding power of mangoes. When I think of mangoes, I think only of making my specialty, which is mango salsa. (Check out the post for the recipe.) Over the years, and I mean years, as I have been making this salsa for well over a decade that might even be creeping into two, I have tried to introduce this salsa to my dearest friends and family. Frankly, most of them don't get it. In other words, that means that the food I am known for with my best friends has been a complete and utter flop to many, many other people.

Regardless of how picky people can be, the one thing I know is that food brings people together. Furthermore, the more of a tradition the food it, the more it seems to bond. I was reminded of that over the holiday weekend while visiting friends. Miss June, my best friend's elderly yet spunky mother, just had to make her 15-minute chocolate cake. I think there has always been a 15-minute chocolate cake there when I've come to visit, but there was also a family event, so seriously she had no choice but to make the delicious chocolate cake.

I thought of asking for her recipe, which I am sure she would share with me, but it just wouldn't be the same, would it? It's not necessarily the cake itself. It's much more than that. I could say that it's about Miss June and the love she puts into it. I think it might be more about Miss June and the love we have for her. But it might also be the occasions for which she makes the cake. It could be a combination.

Around my hallway at work, I've become known for something other than mango salsa. I make brownies. These brownies are hardly anything special. I use brownie mix that I buy when it's on sale, and half the time I use applesauce instead of oil, so they are more cake-like than chewy. If I have them, I add chocolate chips, and I always add cinnamon. (Miss June adds cinnamon to her cake, too. Try it!) Sometimes it's Brownie Wednesday and sometimes it's Brownie Thursday, but whatever day it is, I'm a hero. I find joy in bringing a few moments of joy during a hectic week, and my colleagues appreciate a few moments to sit back and enjoy something special between lesson plans and grading.

Sometimes the brownies are shared in the back room, but usually they are wrapped in a napkin and carried out to be eaten alone in peace. Yet, somehow, the brownies still bind us together. Strange, isn't it?

What foods bind you with your friends and family?


MRs. Bluebird said...

My southern style macaroni and cheese is demanded of me at every family event.  If I don't bring it, people assume something is wrong.  I've learned to bring two pans of it because it disappears so fast.   I love making it, and I love how people love it.  The other thing that people want is my jalepeno pepper jelly which I make every summer.  I've adapted a friend's recipe and it's a huge hit at school.  My guidance staff loves it and I keep them happy by providing plenty of it throughout the year.

Your bro said...

Every summer I make salsa for my boss. She lives off chips, salsa and energy drinks, poor thing. I used to grow my own veggies for the salsa but that hasn't happened for a couple years so instead I pick from the nursery where my wife works in the summer. Using veggies from the store just does not make a good salsa. I'm not pressured to make it, I'm not begged to make it, I'm not even suggested to make it, but I do make it usually only once a summer. My boss LOVES it to the point she often wont share with anyone--or if she does, only a taste. The secret to my summer salsa is: I chop all the veggies by hand. I mix the salsa with only my hands. I use plenty of garlic. Inspired by my sis's mango salsa, I use canned mandarine oranges---the only item in my salsa that is not fresh.

Your bro said...

When it comes to my family, I make a cold weather meal that everyone likes:
Chicken Pot Tye. I take pride in making a gravy, making a beautiful crust, and nothing says love like opening a bag of frozen veggies to toss in the rest of the hand-made goodness.
I make it seem like such labor to make a Chicken Pot Tye, though it's not really.

Every Thanksgiving I make bread like my grandfather taught me to make. A tribute to him, like having him at the table with us. My caramel rolls aren't as good as his were but someday I'll figure out his trick.

Every Christmas, my daughters and I make a gingerbread house. Thank you, sis. That's another tradition I hope carries on through our family that you made possible!

HappyChyck said...

Ah, Mrs. Bluebird! Macaroni and cheese! It is the only meal I've ever made that my husband suggested I not make again, and trust me, I make a lot of weird stuff. Several nights a week it's like an episode of Chopped. There's a para at my school who is responsible for bringing mac & cheese on potluck days. In fact, she is responsible for anything remotely southern.

Tye--I don't think I've had any of those dishes! However, I have been inspired by your quiche, and with the help of The Enchanted Broccoli Forest I can turn out a few variations.
On the Chicken Pot Tye...we should compare recipes. Chicken pie was the first recipes that I tweaked a few recipes to make up my own--that was when I was in high school. I haven't made it it a long time, though!