There's no taste like home
Last updated 10/2/2019 at 12:33pm | View PDF
Have you ever longed for a flavor? A favorite food you remember from childhood or a particular dish?
A little over three years ago, my family made an unexpected cross-country move from Texas to Chicago. After years of training, my husband was offered a job as a cardiologist and medical professor at UIC. It was a great position but it meant moving nearly 1,000 miles away from our friends and family.
Suddenly my familiar life changed. Our old home sold in days. I left my job as an attorney. In what felt like the blink of an eye, everything I owned was boxed and in a moving van. However, change can bring good things, like having more time with my two young daughters and pursuing my love of writing by creating my own food blog.
Ultimately, our family's move taught me that home isn't just a residence or location. I have come to believe that it is more of a feeling and sometimes even a taste. Homesick, I found myself cooking tacos, green chili enchiladas, barbecued brisket and gumbo. All of the Gulf Coast favorites that I missed.
Can food then be more than just a meal?
I believe food has the unique ability to take you places. It can allow you to travel great distances or go back to a time gone by. Eating is necessary to provide nutrition, but cooking has a way of feeding the soul. It's a connection we share with family and those who we love. Why does my mother make a dizzying array of holiday side dishes? The cheese onions, the baked potato casserole, the black cherry Jell-O are all a way to remember my grandmothers and give thanks for the traditions they created. Homemade pie is more than just dessert when it comes with a family story on the side. Food has the power to connect you to the past with just one bite.
Cooking together with family also creates new memories. There is a deep comfort in sharing a meal together. My daughters often help me as I cook dinner. We now enjoy making some new Chicago-inspired dishes like chicken Vesuvio and homemade pizza. We talk as we cook and spend time together, and in this way, we create new shared experiences.
Finally, food lets you share a small piece of who you are with others. The first time we had a party for our new friends we made a Texas-style meal. Everyone loved the chips and salsa. However, as we were serving dinner, my husband realized that our Chicago friends were politely hovering around the King Ranch Chicken trying to figure out exactly what this "exotic" dish was. Sensing their hesitation, he just explained that it was "Texas Lasagna." Our guests ended up loving it. We all still laugh about that meal, because food has a way of creating community.
In the end, moving taught me that the best meals are the ones that remind us of home and all the places and people we love.
- Amy McCauley of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected]