Every Friday evening my mother calls me with a grocery list. I reorganize the list according to the layout of my local grocery store and complete the order on Saturday. Once the bags are unloaded and unpacked, my mother directs where items should be stored.
For two elderly people of average size and modest appetite they sure have a lot of food, enough to feed a small army I would say. Their split-level house hosts two fridges, a large freezer, wire shelving units lined with staples in the basement, all this on top of what they have in the kitchen cabinets.
Having enough food for themselves but more importantly to feed others is the type of house I grew up in. The definition of a party pooper in the Cheema household would be that one guest who declared they were on a diet when my dad tried to heap a generous second helping on their plate. More often than not, the dieter soon succumbed to my dad’s charm and persistance.
Before my parents fell ill, I’d go home regularly with a doggie bag. This was especially appreciated post divorce (I don’t cook) because I could stretch it out over a few days and feed my son healthy, home-cooked meals.
No doggie bags these days but my dad’s instinct to feed us all is ever present so he tries to give me money for take-out when I’m leaving which I politely decline.
I’m not certain where this compulsion to make sure we are well-fed (over-fed is probably a more accurate description) comes from. It may in part be from the Sikh concept of langar, or community kitchen. My father was sixteen when he had to flee for his life during India’s Partition in 1947. Despite the hardships he endured as a refugee, my father insists they were well-fed at the camps, with everyone participating in the preparation and doling out of the communal food. Once my father was safe and reunited with his family, he gave back to those camps by volunteering his time to feed other refugees.
What was your experience with food and community growing up? Has it influenced your attitude towards food, in particular receiving guests today?
I may not cook but I am my father’s daughter when it comes to making sure my guests are adequately fed and hydrated.