There is great meaning in the simple gestures of food preparation.
Tomorrow, my wife and I are going to have dinner at the house of some friends of ours. Between children and adults, there are going to be 15 of us at the table. It’s one of those nice get-togethers made easier by summer vacation. And, in the midst of this summer heat, there’s my friend, who started cooking at 8 a.m. today to prepare everything to make sure dinner is ready for tomorrow.
Cooking for other people is an admirable act of love. Perhaps we’re too used to seeing our grandmother, our mother or father, or our spouse preparing lunch or dinner, and we don’t realize how much self-giving is involved. We should stop and appreciate it. We all know that when you prepare food for other people, the greatest payment that you could receive for your efforts is seeing the people at the table enjoy what you’ve prepared.
Feeding people we love is an act that goes beyond the biological needs of the body. It isn’t just about throwing food down in front of them. It involves thinking about the menu beforehand, buying the necessary groceries, taking into account the tastes and dietary limits of each person, thinking about the nutritional and health value of the food, about the person who needs strength to recover from an illness, about the person who is trying to lose weight, about the other person who’s an athlete and needs lots of energy, or about the person who needs to feel rewarded for their hard work throughout the day. Someone who cooks for family and friends knows that cooking means thinking about others constantly. We cook with our hearts as much as with our hands, because usually when we cook, it’s for other people, to make them happy and content.
When we talk about gestures of love, the most common ones we might think of are hugs, kisses, or simply the words, “I love you,” but not everyone expresses love in the same way. Often, cooking a good meal for someone is also an important gesture of love, one we should recognize and appreciate.
The next time you sit at the table, when you thank God for your food, be thankful not only for all that has been prepared for you with time and care, but also for that person who loves you, who thought about you with every stir of the spoon, with every dash of salt, with every teaspoon of oil. Then, at least with your gaze—or, even better, with your words and deeds—respond to that love with love. They deserve it. Gratitude is love too, and of the best kind.