Trust


Oh, my.

I don’t remember exactly what it was that I hoped my grandchildren would ask of me. I don’t clearly recall what dreams I had back in the days when my teaching colleagues used to call me “NonniWannabe”. I know that I wanted my grandchildren to love and trust me. But I’m not sure that I had a really clear idea of exactly what I wanted the kids to want from me.

Do you know what I mean?

But I think that today showed me exactly what I’d hoped for.

It was a typical spring morning in New England. We live far from the coast, so the mornings here are still cold. Our son-in-law arrived, as usual, with his two kids in his arms. They came into the house dressed for the sixty degree day that was forecast, but the morning was frosty.

The kids came in and sat down for breakfast. I had put out fruit, as usual, but also made nice warm toast. I offered oatmeal or waffles. Both kid wanted pineapple, clementines, milk, and nice cold grapes. By the end of the meal, our Ellie was shivering.

“Snuggle me, Nonni,!” she asked. “I’m freezing!”

I held my girl, wrapped her in a blanket, snuggled her as she had asked.

“I’m so cold!,” she told me. “I need your warm snuggles.”

My heart started to melt. I had intended to vacuum the floors, but I was forced to sit still and hold my sweet little girl in my arms. Her french braid tickled my chin, and her bony little bottom wriggled on my leg. It was heaven.

As we finished our breakfast, I told the kids that I had some leftover chicken to give them at lunchtime.

“No thanks,” said Ellie. “I want some nice hot soup for lunch.”

I blinked. I answered honestly, “Honey, I don’t have any soup ready.”

She turned her head and gazed up at me with her deep brown eyes. She put one hand on my cheek.

“Nonni,” she said sweetly, “Just check your ingredients. I bet you can make soup!”

Holy trusting child.

She was cold. She had the shivers. She was trusting me to warm her with my loving arms, but she was also telling me that she was completely confident that this old woman could whip up some homemade soup in no time.

Naturally, I pulled out some frozen chicken stock, added some garlic, onions, salt, pepper and bay leaf, and let it all simmer. Of course, without a doubt, Johnny and I pulled apart last night’s chicken and added it to the pot. We let it simmer while we played all morning, and then I cooked up some ditalini and added frozen peas to bring down the temperature.

I served it to the kids, who were starved after an hour outside playing in the cold, wet yard.

“Oh, yum,” said Ellie. She slurped up a big spoonful of hot broth, and smiled at me. “See? I knew you had some soup around.”

And now I know.

THIS is what I wanted my grandchildren to think about me. I wanted them to think, “Nonni will keep me warm. Nonni will be able to cook up the best food to keep me healthy and warm and safe.”

I wasn’t even sure what I wanted them to think, but you know what?

THIS is it.

It’s about soup.

Other Grandmoms, do you get it?

Food is love


The idea that food equals love is not an original one. Years ago I had a friend, a teacher colleague, who used to talk about her own nuclear family growing up. They were Italians, like my own family, and her Mom raised her, as mine did, with the idea that feeding people is a way to show that you love them.

I totally live that way.

One of my favorite hobbies now that I’m retired is going through old, old cookbooks and reading about the delicacies of the past. I’ve been collecting old cookbooks that I read the way other people read a novel.

One of my favorites was a wedding gift to my Mother, given to her in 1950. The book was first published in 1901. It has tips on things like making a roast chicken. Step one? Kill the chicken.

Anyway, I was thinking today about the whole cultural idea of food as a show of love. And I think that feeding a hungry person is absolutely an act of love.

In my 61 years on this earth, I have brought food to friends who are grieving, family who are sick, friends and family who are celebrating milestones. I have made soup for fellow grad students on a snowy night. I’ve brought muffins to school on the morning after terrible and shocking events like 9/11.

And I’ve learned, slowly, to accept tortellini soup when I was the one in need. I loved it when a friend at school gave me a gift of lasagna for Christmas when I was a working mother of three little children.

So in the past few weeks, as Ellie has had her first bad cold and ear infections, I found myself thinking about “food is love” once again.She had the chills; I made her ginger lemon tea. Not from a tea bag. With actual grated ginger and lemon and honey.

I made soup. I had frozen chicken stock, made after we had eaten our locally raised, organic, sustainable birds. I cooked down the carcasses, peeled off all the meat, froze it into small cubes. Which I then cooked with garlic (antibiotic properties), onion, carrots, the herbs I dried from last summer……

It was good. She like it. She ate it. No biggie.

Except that I felt fabulous. I felt like Nonni of the year.

Why? I didn’t make her better; she still had to take her antibiotics and her nose drops. She still had her fevers and her chills.

But I COOKED for her. I showed her how much I love her. I gained a totally false but somehow satisfying sense of control over the microbes of the universe.

It was great.

Today Ellie and I roasted a big pan of beef bones, which we then put into a stock pot with veggies and spice.

It’s simmering on the stove right now. Just waiting for the next cold or flu to hit someone I love.

Food. Is. Love.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.

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