by Connie Clarkson
“Cooking is all about people. Food is maybe the only universal thing that really has the power to bring everyone together. No matter what culture, everywhere around the world, people eat together.”
- Guy Fieri
Food is something that brings people together. Food is a connection to the people we love and know, it can also be a connection to people we don’t know. Food is a gateway to cultures and people. But overall, food is something that all people share and all people love and need.
I think that the love of food is a never-ending relationship, sometimes that can be good and sometimes it can be bad. I’ve often found that food in a way is kind of like a soulmate, it’s there when you need it, it comforts you when you’re down, it warms you up, and it makes you feel good. Some of my best memories are sharing plates of food with my friends and family. I remember eating dinner at night was the thing that I looked forward to the most in my days.
My mom sat us down at the dinner table, and she’d make us all kinds of food. One of my favorite meals my mom would make is her homemade mac and cheese, yes, it was fattening and creamy, and full of various cheeses. She would stuff bacon and breadcrumbs into the pasta and layer it with the creamy, rich cheese sauce, and bake it. I remember she would make us all different kinds of meals for us at dinner, spaghetti, chicken, her Indian curry dishes, stuffed peppers, pasta, etc.
Growing up, I continued to eat her well made, loved packed meals. In elementary school, she’d write me love notes and put them into my sack lunches. I remember her saying that she wouldn’t let me eat the gross cafeteria food that they served in my elementary school and middle schools. Frankly, I didn’t mind because her sandwiches were sooo much better. I think back at it now and realize that I was lucky, that I had a mother who cared so much for me and took the time to write me those cheesy notes in my lunches.
I knew that other kids I went to school with didn’t have that option or mother to do so as mine did. Then, as I continued to grow and age, I became more independent and less tolerant of her sack lunches. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like the food, but it was that my friends were getting all the good, junky food at the cafeteria and snack bars we had in middle school. I wanted to fit in and not be that girl, whose mom still made sack lunches for her. Now, I think that was stupid, because who cares if you come to school with food or not.
In high school, sack lunches “came back in style”, my friends and I would go eat lunch in our school garden called the “Peace Garden”. It was a good size lawn, not too small, not too big, and the sun beamed down every day, and we’d all sit around and eat. When senior year came around, our food game went up, the school would allow seniors to go off campus to get lunch or do whatever, as long as we came back in time before security shut the gates. So, I and my friends would walk down the street to the local hangout that was 711. We had a Taco Bell, a vegan cafe, a noodle place, and a few more places that served good food. I remember my brothers saying it was like a ‘right of entry’ to off-campus.
During that time, on the weekends, my friends and I would go down to China and Koreatown in downtown LA and try different Korean barbeque places. Korean barbeque is the method in Korean cuisine of grilling meat, typically beef, pork, or chicken. These dishes are often prepared on gas or charcoal grills built into the dining table itself. I remember just us sitting around and trying new KBB places and laughing and gossiping about people in our lives and at school. We would pick off each other’s plates and taste the different meats and such.
In those moments, we were happy and we were happy to be around each other and being active in each other’s lives. The food would give us a way to bond. It reminded us of quality time, and the notion of spending time with the people you love and respect isn’t a waste of time or money. When we all graduated and went off to college and moved away, that friendship we shared was still distilled in us; when I go back to California to visit, I see them and we still go out and eat to catch up and reminisce. Food again is something that brings people together, it makes us take the time to stop and listen and to be in the moment, no matter where you are, or what’s going on around you.