A few years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a few days with all of my sisters-in-law in Kentucky. Before my trip, I looked up the distance from my getaway to the city where three of my aunts lived at the time. I hadn’t seen them in many years, and decided to take a day from the sister gathering to drive to Tennessee and visit. It was a four-hour drive through the Smoky Mountains, and oh, what a beautiful drive it was. When I arrived, I was greeted warmly by two of my maiden aunts. A little later, the third aunt walked over from across the street. We hugged and kissed and caught up. I brought photo albums to show them of my kids and life in the corn belt. And then it was lunch time, and Aunt Bee (I’ll call her) asked did I want her to fix something. I’ve never been one to turn down food.
She fried up eggs and sausage, and then just ‘whipped up’ some biscuits and gravy. A true southern breakfast. It was good grub, and one of my aunts, who was battling cancer at the time, even ate some biscuits and gravy. (She lost her battle a few years ago.)
The thing that was amazing was how we all ended up talking about food. I was there about four hours, and a good part of that time was spent talking about different recipes and cooking techniques. I felt surrounded by unconditional love, and memories of many family reunions which always featured delicious food. It was life-affirming. Food will always and has always, brought people together. It was only fitting that my little reunion with my aunts and a fortuitous drop-in by an uncle that same day, involved passionate conversation about the culinary arts. (I lost my uncle to cancer not a full year after my aunt.)
Later, I discussed my visit with my mother. She said unapologetically, “Well, you were in the same room with probably three of the best cooks in the country.” Something about that statement just made me so happy. I felt a wonderful connection to these women who served meals to their children and extended families for years and years. In spite of the time spent doing that, they were still passionate about cooking and food. The meals they made were truly an act of love. When Aunt Bee cooked for me, it was a direct way for her to feed my soul with her love. I will forever cherish the memory of sitting at my aunts’ feet and listening to them swap recipes and cooking tips. I like to think that their talent with food is genetic, and maybe I inherited that same gift of preparing food not only for nutrition, but also for love and joy. It was the last time I saw my Aunt ‘Sharon’ and my Uncle ‘David’. I consider our visit one of the highlights of my adult life.