With the holidays around the corner, it’s hard not to think of gift-giving. This is the time of the year where we begin to keep our eyes and ears open for what our loved ones want most. I think most of us delight in finding precisely the right thing for those we love. It allows us to share in their happiness, which is one of the greatest joys of life.
As we consider how to treat those around us, my thoughts turn specifically to the gift of food. I don’t solely mean giving food as a gift. However, that is most certainly a valid option. Who doesn’t love getting cookies and fudge and all the rest at Christmas time? Is it Christmas without Aunt Elaine’s gingerbread? We love holiday food. It’s delicious and frequently reminds us of childhood and family. I will never turn down a tin of homemade sugar cookies (gluten and dairy-free, of course). Food is a lovely gift.
That said, I want to think of it in less obvious ways as well. Consider the mom who gets up early to make her kids their favorite pancakes, the spouse who learns a meal from scratch to surprise their partner or even the best friend who brings soup because she knows how tired you are. Food is a gift in and of itself, but the real treasure is the thoughtfulness behind it.
Mom didn’t merely give her kids pancakes. She gave them a feeling of being loved and welcomed. A reminder that they will always have a home wherever she is. Nor is her offering comprised solely of the ingredients and the time it took to prepare the meal. It’s also in the sleep she gave up, the time she took to plan, in all of the other things she could have chosen to do instead but decided to do this thing for those she loved.
The same could be said of the partner who learned an old family recipe from scratch to bring a taste of home to their loved one and for the friend who loved you enough to notice your exhaustion and went out of her way to alleviate it. Food is a gift, but the more significant offering is the love behind it.
There is also the gift of time spent together. How many of us have childhood memories of baking cookies with loved ones? Cooking together can be a bonding experience. I swear you can learn little secrets of who someone is by the way they make cookies. Do they measure to make sure each cookie will turn out the same? Do they roll it to precision? Do they glop it on the tray and gleefully move on to the next? All of these are little insights into who they are. When you cook together, you can learn about someone’s habits, stories, and heart.
While food is not love, it is very much a way we express love. Food can be a gift straight from the heart. Pay attention to the bounty you give and to what you receive. There may be a thousand “I love yous” inside every tin.