The Dish of My Heart

A Slice of family History would be the category I chose to put my food narrative into, because the food that my family partakes in together creates our intimate family moments. The history is built around the food, and everyone has a favorite meal that reminds them of a certain time. For example we had a large dinner two winters ago where we were all gathered around the table talking about who we are thankful for a why. When it was my older cousins turn to tell who she was thankful for, she said she was thankful for my mother, my cousin Joanise her mother had died in 2007 and as hard as that was for our family it made us stronger. Joanise proceeded to tell my mother of how she has easily stepped into the role of helping her cope with losing her mother, and that she hoped she would do just as well as an honorary grandmother. The following summer my cousin gave birth to my beautiful god daughter, Jolynn. But that moment was something that we all still talk about to this day. How we were sitting around enjoying a great meal and enjoying each other when we all go to the news of a new addition to our large family. The food we ate that day, as true to form is always a comfort meal, it was a ground beef, and bean soup, with corn bread, and cabbage on the side. In the winter time my mom loves to make comfort foods along that line, different forms of chili, and soups, and stews, and one of my favorites was sausage and potatoes. I first had this meal about 5 years ago, my mom was received it from one of our family friends Angela, who is Italian. My mom had dinner at her house fell in love with the dish, and she graciously shared the recipe.

As a child you begin to explore your taste buds, you start to explore what you like, certain foods that you don’t like, and family favorites. Since I was young my mom has always made sure that my siblings and I tried all types of cuisine from different cultures. My mother is of African American decent but being that her father was in the Air Force, she traveled all over the world, from Texas, to Turkey, to Germany, and back to Pennsylvania. My mom has always told me that my siblings and I should explore different foods, and remain open minded when it comes to trying different foods.  With that statement she has made us different foods, and has opened our minds and our taste buds when it comes to trying them. Both my younger sister and I are in college, and it has become a tradition that when we are home for the weekends, our mom makes us one of our favorite comfort foods. For my sister and I, coming home is something we look forward to, not only because of the meals our mom makes us, but it also make us feel comfortable. After all the stress from school it’s nice to come home to the people you love, who support you, and also be surrounded by great food.

As great of a story as that is painted out to be, our house on the weekends becomes a small circus, I have four siblings two of which have children. Our home becomes a family gathering for an entire weekend where everyone feels as if it is a clinical treatment center mixed in with a safe haven. As soon as you enter all your problems are addressed and as a family we work them out together. I use the word family gathering because our house is filled with family members, and friends we consider family. This sometimes includes many of my 6 nieces, and 2 nephews, our newest additions my great niece and god daughter, my sisters, their husbands, my parents, and my Shiba Inu puppy, Tyson. A circus is the nicest way to explain the transformation our home takes once everyone is released from their busy scheduled weekly events. My mother easily takes on the role of the boss, the captain of the ship, whatever she says we all do, she gives off a very strong and encouraging attitude, but let one onion be cut improperly and the dinner is cancelled. My mother threatens the entire house about four to five times prior to any family gatherings that she will not feed us. And since this happens so frequently no one seems to take head to her threats, and warnings.

Every dish that my mother makes, especially during the fall and winter, are very meaningful to everyone in our family. These dishes bring so much warmth and comfort not only to our stomachs but also to our hearts. It brings a level of relaxation, where once were all gathered around our large dining room table, we feel we can talk to each other with ease, regardless how big or small the issue of concern may be. This is why I chose to pick the Italian dish, of sausage and potatoes, because it is something I relate to when it comes to being home, and feeling comfortable. The meal has a larger meaning to me; it reminds me of my family and the times we share together when it comes to being around the table together. It also shows how food brings us together, regardless of all the chaos that happens while the meal is being made and even after the meal has been partaken. The moments spent around the table seem to be the only ones we really remember, we remember all the positive conversations, and laughs, and forget all of the negative things that occur before and after we enjoy those times together.

My personal favorite dish to be served during any family get together is an Italian dish called sausage and potatoes, it contains two types of sausage, an Italian sausage , and a spicy sausage, green and red peppers, and chopped up red potatoes, in a red tomato based sauce.  Everyone in my family understands my love for this meal, and it’s a running family joke that this meal will be served at my future wedding. Being that I am from a very closed knit family food really brings us together; food brings us to my parents’ house at a certain time to talk about our hectic week. Many times we don’t even see how the incentive of food is what brings us closer together. Everyone in my family knows that sausage and potatoes is my favorite dish, when my mom makes it, it’s as if everyone stares at me, and their eyes question what may be wrong. Although my family all enjoys the dish, their love for it isn’t the same as mine,and my mom seems to know exactly when to make it. And it always seems to be when I need her, and the comfort of my favorite meal. When walking into our home when the dish is being prepared, your nostrils are filled with the aroma from the simmering of the different peppers and the tomato sauce, when I smell that I am automatically drawn to the kitchen. When my mom makes our favorite meals we all seem to gravitate toward the kitchen, we sit in their while she’s on her feet, and we just enjoy being around her and have great conversations. Its as if my mom knows when to make our favorite dishes it brings us into the kitchen to talk to her, as if she’s a therapist and she calls us into her office. I remember one time she made it I was really struggling with the death of my Aunt Denise, I came home from school, to a house filled with my favorite scent. My mother was making my dish, as for I was not ready to talk to anyone about my pain, and the small amount of anger I had when thinking about not having my Aunt around any longer. As I gravitated to the kitchen a little slower than normal, I saw that my mom was making her infamous sausage and potatoes, and as I made my way into the kitchen I grabbed a seat, and sat in the kitchen with my head lower than normal and in silence. When I finally broke the silence, I said, “I am not quite ready to let go Mom.” She responded with some of the most encouraging words as she always does. She responded, ”Tanesha, no one is ever ready to let go of a loved one, but you must understand that Aunt Denise is in a better place now, a place where she is no longer in pain.” And I thought about all the struggling my Aunt was doing those last few days in the hospital and those words along with my favorite meal really helped me cope with the pain I was going through at the time. I also came to the realization that day that not only is food something to nourish our bodies, and fill our stomachs; it helps us actually have intimate family time. I don’t know if I would have actually talked about my feelings had my mom not been there and made me comfortable the way she always seems to do when she makes my favorite dish.



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