My history does not lend itself to be very forgiving or much less welcoming of others into my kitchen. As a child it was a place to satisfy my hunger. I was a hungry child with what my parents called a “healthy appetite. “Food was always available and I ate…until the day I stopped. My dad intimated that I was getting fat. My “healthy appetite” had betrayed me. My hunger was now perceived with much disdain that I began to despise the body that housed my being. The kitchen, food and dinnertime became my enemy. How was I going to survive?
For the 25 years I battled with eating disorders, my kitchen became a place of ridged control. It made me nervous to have others preparing food there. I did not teach my children to cook or to bake…I did not welcome others into my kitchen. My capacity to extend the invitation was not available and my hunger increased. So I ate and ate, stuffing myself to satisfy my hunger only to purge and to be left hungry again.
I felt so deceived by my body that ached for something more that seemed out of reach for me.
It has now been 25 years since I no longer practice the behavior of eating disorders. It has taken many of those years to turn my kitchen into a place that welcomes the presence of others. I’m noticing the deep ache of my hunger is not just about food but the goodness and kindness that is created there.
Recently some of my grandchildren were here for an extended visit. Faith, my 10 year old, is into recipes and cooking. She diligently copies them off on her cards to take home. Chocolate chip cookies were on her agenda and I found myself taking her through the recipe step by step. She listens intently…I love that. She stirs with vigor…I love that too. Faith and I ate the raw cookie dough with no ill side effects…we both loved that. We made a mess and had a blast.
Chloe, my 14 year old, made deviled eggs and my famous Cocoa Cola chicken wings. I took her through each step of boiling, peeling, chopping, and mixing the ingredience for the eggs.
Then we were onto frying those wings. She took charge of one fry pan and me the other. We made a great team. And the aromas coming from the kitchen made everyone’s mouth water while clamoring for the recipes.
Parker, my 12 year old, is an expert at spicy pretzels and he taught me how to make those. Yes, I actually turned my kitchen over to him. He didn’t disappoint as he delivered those pretzels browned and tasty.
My hunger was satisfied that day but not just by the food. It was the loving presence of my grandchildren. I realized my ache for something more was found in them. It was their company, their laughter, their touch, their eyes and their appetites that reached into my heart for the more I was longing for. My heart felt the warmth of their presence as I welcomed them in.
In closing I know my kitchen has been a place of betrayal and kindness. Both have existed side-by-side for years. My hope for today is that when my grandchildren remember my kitchen, kindness will rise to the surface of their hearts.
I am still in the process of redeeming my history. It has caused me to wonder about those years of struggle…what was missing in my “healthy appetite”? I believe my grandchildren are providing some answers through their loving presence. I welcome them into my life and I am seeing that I, too, am welcomed into theirs.
Mary Jane Hamilton has grown to love her sense of style and her peaceful lake living. Mother of 2 and grandmother of 6, she has a wonderful capacity to love and is still active as The Tooth Fairy. She is extremely fond of her dachshunds, who rarely venture from her lap, and enjoys biking with her husband of 44 years. She is rekindling her writing skills and finding it life giving.