Food is medicine to the soul. No matter how angry you become, the smell of your favorite food can sweep away whatever is bothering you as if your mind is transported to another planet by just the aroma. Food is therapeutic because it can heal the mind at least for seconds or minutes or however long you may take to savor.
I love food, and my love for food has turned me into a cook. Growing up I did not spend much time in the kitchen, but when I did, I was always amazed how all the ingredients blend to produce such a taste.
Food is one of the ways of showing hospitality. I remembered visiting my grandma’s village in West Africa and the unique ways my grandma used to welcome guests. She owns a flock of goats, sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens. It was her custom to entertain by killing one of the animals, whether a goat or chicken or a pig, and the meat would be used for several delicious dishes with nothing ever wasted. Just standing and watching her prepare the food was incredible. My favorite part was when the meat sizzled on the firewood, releasing fats which added to the aroma of the meat. It was just pleasant to watch and savor. It didn’t matter the mood of the guests before they arrived. All that changed when they smelled the delicious food or roasting meat from the kitchen.
My grandma’s kitchen was a big hut made of cement bricks and grass roofing. It was as if my grandma wanted her guests to savor the food while waiting. There was an opening to let the smoke out of the kitchen which made it easier for the mouth-watering scents to spread throughout the compound and its surrounding. My grandma occasionally received compliments alongside teasing from other women passing through to gardens and large farmlands across from her compound. Sometimes she invited the farmers and gardeners for lunch, and one might mistake it for a great feast or celebration, which shows the appreciation for great food and its power to bring communities together.
I did not start cooking until my second year in college in America. Back at home I rarely cooked. The only times were when I invited friends over to our house or when the youth group I joined had a gathering when I was the VP. Other times it was for my ex-boyfriend and his siblings (five boys and one girl). I cooked for them because I felt that at least one or two good and proper meals per week make a difference. They came from a far village into town for schooling while leaving their parents behind. After we broke up that was it, I don’t really remember cooking again other than the occasional omelette. I was lucky to have a great cook at home whose dishes I enjoyed so much, but that was one of the first things I missed about home when I arrived in the U.S.
I was, or actually I am home-body. I love spending a lot of time at home, and good food makes it even more enjoyable. I froze for literally five or more seconds my first time walking through my college cafeteria food courts. I am not indicating that the food was bad, but was just not for me and every bone in me can attest to that. One of the reasons why I was so excited to come to the U.S was its variety of food from different cultures, but my school cafeteria did not do it any justice. My newly made friend tapped my back and whispered to me ‘You’ll get used to it.’ I was like what? Get used to what? No, I won’t.
I finally settled on a bowl of salad and water while hoping for better choices next meal. Guess that only happened in my imagination, which happens to be especially vivid if I am looking forward to eating something. In mind I can smell the food, see it and even taste it, which is why sometimes it can lead to my greatest disappointments after seeing, smelling and tasting the real food. Come next meal time; I eagerly rushed in because I was still hungry and couldn’t wait to have something appealing to fill up on. Again, I was disappointed and settled for another bowl of salad.
Even though I lived off campus, it never occurred to me start cooking my food; instead, I continue to pick between a bowl of salad, vegetable soup and occasionally pizza, or I made a visit to my favorite Thai restaurant – until the realities of college expenses hit home. Then I said to myself, wait a minute, I can make fried rice or noodle soup. All I needed was to go to the store and shop for less expensive ingredients, and I can customize whatever taste I want. Win-win! That’s how I started cooking and fell in love with it. It became my therapy or stress reliever as a way of finding stillness while living in a busy world.