As my children grew from babies to teenagers, food became an integral, intricate part of our lives. Other families had scrapbooks and cousins, camping trips or communal prayer. We had food. Food that eventually became its own kind of ritual, elaborate and predictable as catechism. On Thanksgiving: turkey, stuffing, two kinds of potatoes, carrots, green beans and that horrible jelled cranberry sauce my middle son refused to live without. On Christmas, it was salmon, rib roast and cookies—four kinds, extra nuts, no exceptions. Sometimes, when calendar collisions meant that Passover, Easter and Greek Orthodox Easter all fell at once, we mixed and matched with culinary obsession: matzo ball soup, lamb, ham, eggs and wiggly Jell-O bunnies. None of this was exactly gourmet fare. But I kept cooking and we kept eating, testifying to the only gospel that our family's diverse ancestry seemed to share: Food equals love. Amo cookat. Amat eatat. Or something like that. If I love you, I will cook. And if you love me, you will eat.
My father-in-law is walking a bit slower these days. The cold bothers him and he naps more frequently than I remember. But when we picked him up at the airport last week, the suitcase was still there—one shirt, one pair of socks, two pounds of raisins, a bag of almonds and some cheese. He is cooking. We are good.