It had been a culminating season of built-up stressors and a particularly emotional week. The tense political and societal climate was continuing to brew and make me feel hopeless and sad, the hurricane devastation in the South had made itself known to the rest of the country, and a friend’s beloved family member had passed away untimely and unfairly. With so many significant and confounding issues swirling around me, I couldn’t seem to find my way out of a profound funk of vulnerability and helplessness. Sometimes, it seems like this earth is given more than it can handle at a time, and as one tiny inhabitant of it, it seems like my small contributions could never make a dent of difference.
I couldn’t bring my friend’s loved one back to life, nor could I dry up all the flooding of increasing natural disasters, but I could continue to do what I love and what perhaps I do best. I could cook. I could make food from scratch with my own hands and fingers, and feed the ones I love. Provide sustenance to them and serve my love and compassion on a plate bubbling with goodness and tenderness. Treat them to something sweet, perhaps a bit too indulgent, and use the earth’s bounty to fill it with fresh ingredients and natural deliciousness.
You see, when everything seems to be going wrong, or when I feel like I have no control over tragic or chaotic occurrences, cooking is my therapy and my way to give something selflessly to those that I love. This is true for many people and home cooks. There is something indescribably cathartic about cooking, especially when just for others. To take a bunch of separate ingredients, use a bit of science, heat and strength to transform them into something that provides nourishment and pleasure for someone else—well, it’s one of the best acts of kindness I can personally think to do. It is pure, complete love on a plate.
I’ve never been good at sharing my feelings of affection with others. Perhaps I am a bit of a cold fish. It took me weeks and weeks to uncomfortably reciprocate my first “I love you” to my husband many years ago, after the poor guy had no problem offering me his sentiments. I’m not a hugger or a touchy-feely kind of woman. I don’t get that warm, mushy feeling when I see little babies, and I am better at offering a devil’s-advocate perspective rather than sympathy when others have problems. But despite this, I do feel things intensely. In fact, my heart is a deep, deep cavern of emotion and sensitivity, and it can ache all the same when others are suffering and when the world seems bleak. Cooking is my heart’s language to convey its love and solace.
On this particular day of helplessness, I decided to make a berry pie for my family. I headed to the farm to pick some fresh raspberries and blackberries. The tiny scrapes on my fingers from thorns were soothing as I felt good about using fresh, local and healthy ingredients. I returned home to knead my homemade pie crust. After letting it harden and cool, I was having a difficult time rolling it out and into my pie pan. It was starting to break and fall apart, so similar to how I felt the rest of the world seemed to be fracturing lately. I ditched my rolling pin and pressed the dough into the pan with just my hands, each indentation feeling restorative as I was able to mend it and eventually transform my broken dough into a proper and fitted crust. I mixed the berries with sugar and poured the sweetness into the pan, baking until perfectly bubbly and melded. I fed my family the sliced treat, watching lovingly. I don’t like pie, but I somehow felt better and just as nourished as they enjoyed it. If I can feel helpful and beneficial by cooking for my family, how else could I put this toward assistance for others? Could I feed more people? Could I help with hunger in some small way? Suddenly I started to realize how small and intimate acts of benevolence can be the stimulus for larger ones.
Cooking for loved ones might not change the rest of the world, but it’s where selfless love can begin. And right now, it seems the world needs all the love pie it can get.