Eat, Eat, Love
When he was younger, my father-in-law fought the Nazis and the communists and survived a famine so severe that villagers took to eating the ancient staves of corn that lined the roofs of their chicken coops. He is not afraid of growing old or of falling on the ice-slicked streets of Toronto, where he spends the winter months. He is only afraid of bad food, which means, so far as I can tell, any food he hasn't cooked himself. I've tried making him toast and grilled fish and chicken, all to no avail. The toast has butter, or has been near butter or knows another piece of bread that once associated with butter, which he won't eat. The fish didn't come from the Mediterranean, and the chicken just wasn't good, like his chicken. The man regularly crosses the Canadian border laden with three full suitcases of food—olives, chocolate, taramosalata, cheese and, nowadays, bread, since apparently there is no place in New York to get good bread. He cannot believe that we live so far away from Greek groceries and still survive. When my husband took him to a fine Greek restaurant that he had reviewed well in advance, my father-in-law declared it okay, but not good. He rolled his fish in a napkin and took it home to cook it again. The right way.
Debora talks about cooking and her busy family life
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.