Make memories in the kitchen

Loaded baked-potato grilled cheese sandwich.
Loaded baked-potato grilled cheese sandwich.

If you think your family doesn’t appreciate your home cooking just wait until you pass from this planet.

Many obituaries note that the deceased, be it man or woman, loved family more than life itself, that devoted grandpa or grandma doted on the grandchildren, never missing a ballgame.

But other nuggets — nuggets that reveal personality — glitter in sentences above lists of survivors. Sentences such as “She was a great cook.” Instantly, your eyes gaze into the family’s heart.

At funeral homes and funeral luncheons, relatives, and friends reminisce: Sunday dinners, birthday parties, Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, Christmas cookies.

“How we loved getting together for Grandma’s Sunday dinners at the farm.”

“We’ll miss Aunt Jane and her baked beans.”

“Remember Dad’s sweet-potato pie? He never made enough.”

Smiles curve across the memories.

It’s not just words. It’s a celebration of shared meals, shared conversations about homemade meals and treats, the spiced-with-life comfort foods: beef roast dinners, chocolate chip cookies, Easter candies. It’s particularly comforting to hear such comments at a time of overwhelming grief when you wonder if you will ever have another happy day in your life.

We know. Healthy eating is becoming a lasting lifestyle, rather than a passing trend, for more and more people, but there is a place on the plate for comfort foods. No need to tut-tut the calories of some comfort foods. These aren’t daily grind foods, but rather special platters of pleasant times together.

And we welcome winter comfort foods ...seasonal stews and soups, homemade and simmered for hours, start to finish. It’s about inviting brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles to come over for supper. Break bread together. perfume, heady enough to draw family near.

Think nostalgia, think sentimental. Think flavorful.

Favorites, surveys said: Apple pie, baked beans, banana pudding, beef stew, brisket pot roast, chicken and dumplings, chicken pot pie, chicken soup, chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken, grilled cheese sandwich, hamburgers and hot dogs, ice cream, mac and cheese, smashed taters, meatloaf, spaghetti, tomato soup, and tuna casserole.

We’ve heard the excuses, er, the comments, “I don’t have time to cook,” only later to hear “I spend hours watching cooking shows.”

Okay, then. Take what you learn and reclaim your kitchen. Prepare meals from scratch. Share meals. Eat meals together as a family, week in week out, year in, year out. Such traditions can take on traction, and can make a difference

Consider back a generation or two: people didn’t need nutritionists and doctors to “teach” them how to eat or to tell them what not to eat. And sadly, it hasn’t been that many years ago when home cooks served meals featuring real, whole food. Local, organic, grass-fed. Meals for the most part were consumed at home, not in the backseat with extra fries and a plastic toy as a prize.

Meal traditions become diminished with each fast-food meal consumed, with each over-processed food product purchased.

As I conclude this temporary assignment, I make a heart-felt request: learn how to cook from scratch, pass the passion on to your children. Write down treasured family recipes while you still can...learn how to make your favorite family foods.

Embrace family values. Bolster face-to-face communication and personal, not plugged-in, connections. In other words, talk, actually talk, to one another.

Super-size social skills. Practice being polite, even when asking “please pass the pepper.”

Savor the ritual of setting the table with properly placed napkins and utensils. Use proper table manners. Re-tie the apron strings.

Kiss the cook.