Neighbor Friday: A Design So Vast

January 22, 2010

Hi Readers! TKW here! I am so thrilled to share the words of Lindsey from A Design So Vast with you today. She’s a beautiful writer who always makes me think, feel, and vow to be a better person. Enjoy!


One of the (many) parts of Eat, Pray, Love that I adore is a phone conversation between Elizabeth Gilbert and her sister. The sister mentions a family in her neighborhood who has recently received some awful medical news, and Elizabeth Gilbert thinks: “That family needs grace.” Her sister says: “That family needs casseroles.” That passage has always made me smile with the recognition of the myriad ways that people offer support. With the knowledge that sometimes, casseroles are grace.

It also reminds me intensely of my mother, for whom food often is grace. For her, it is a way of expressing the abundance of her love, a way of supporting the spirit by nourishing the body. Right after my first child was born, I slipped into severe post-partum depression. During what remains the darkest time of my life, my mother showed up on my doorstep, almost daily, with full meals. I remember holding my squalling, red-faced newborn and watching her, slightly stunned, as she bustled into the kitchen, in minutes making it more homey than it had felt all day. She set the table, lit candles, heated up roast chicken or baked sweet potatoes or sliced pork tenderloin or tossed a big salad. With my mum cooking in my kitchen I felt safe, the emotion that was so terrifyingly, shockingly absent in the rest of my experience of my daughter’s infancy. My own mother was there, and in her company, supported by her warmth and her delicious food, I could face the idea of being a mother myself.

That is just one example of the ways that Mum’s particular brand of food-related magic has marked my entire life. She is an exemplary cook, all the more impressive to me for how rarely she uses recipes. Her intuition about food is remarkable, as is the fluidity with which she handles the cooking process. She said once that the difference between she and I is that when I’m making something I make sure I have all of the ingredients before I start cooking, whereas she starts cooking and if she doesn’t have an ingredient she just makes something else. She goes with the flow in a way that I can only dream of doing. She cooks and welcomes guests and sips wine and passes hors d’oeurves and makes toasts with characteristic and seamless aplomb. She is so relaxed about entertaining, in fact, that a classic scene of my childhood was my sister and I answering the door and entertaining guests while Mum showered and got dressed (it’s hard for me to remember where my Dad was in this memories!). From the living room, if we looked down the long narrow hall, we could occasionally glimpse her dashing back and forth from her room to the kitchen, her hair in curlers, wearing a slip, to stir something on the stove. To this day she thinks showing up at 7:05 for a 7:00 invitation is a travesty! The ease with which Mum hosts and feeds and celebrates others is magnetic and, indeed, powerfully graceful.

She cooks simple things (a favorite childhood casserole) and fancy things (crown roast of pork) with equal skill. I associate her home with dark gray Calphalon pots simmering on the stove. There are, always, clouds of delicious smells, hugs, offers of snacks and drinks. Always. Food is a part of the way my mother shows her support and its abundance echoes how plentiful that support is. I am immensely grateful to have grown up in a kitchen so rich with nourishment, both for the body and for the soul.


Isn’t she great? I knew you’d agree.

For more awesome Neighborly posts, check the links over at The Never-True Tales.

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