Food: Our Love Language

Today is my older son’s 17th birthday. Wow. It has been a journey, an adventure, and a privilege to be his mom. One thing that unites our family – literally – is food. We eat dinner together every night. What we put on the table can be challenge sometimes — I don’t eat gluten or dairy, and have significantly reduced the amount of animal products I consume. My husband eats a plant-based diet. And both boys have their own picky preferences. There’s usually a lot of different foods to choose from every night!

For his birthday, Colin wants hamburgers — bacon-avocado-cheeseburger, to be precise. And mashed potatoes. He LOVES my mashed potatoes. My boys are quick to pull away from me, to mock me for all of my mom-isms, and to generally behave like teenage boys. But when it comes to food, they are unabashedly full of praise. It warms my heart like a bowlful of chili (they think my chili is the best!)

Like so many things in life, cooking gets better with repetition. We tweak recipes based on past experience and newly acquired tastes. We also form habits — turkey for Thanksgiving is an obvious one. Cake for birthdays. BBQ for 4th of July. And most of us have other foods we associate with certain dates, events or holidays. I love to eat smoked salmon and caviar for Christmas brunch. And there’s the repetition of eating that same thing for that same event, or just on a Thursday night. “Mom, can you make your amazing [chili/potatoes/crepes] again?”

So when birthdays roll around, I ask my boys (including the adult boy I married!) what they want for dinner (or breakfast or lunch or dessert). Food is my love language. It’s my way of giving them my time — time in the kitchen devoted to that sweet important person. And time sitting at the table reflecting on the past year and the year to come.

So this year Colin requested mashed potatoes. Simple, and sublime, and heart-warming. I will make potatoes for that boy any time he asks.

The man-boy at 16 and a half.

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