First of all, thank you so much to all of you who shared your food memories for our 4th Anniversary  event. You made us laugh out loud, you made us chuckle, and you brought tears to our eyes. If we could we would have given the prize to everyone! But we only have one book in our budget…so, after a weekend of arguing back and forth, we finally selected one jewel out of a whole boxful of treasures: Mitch’s entry, I Ate Love :
My parents were divorced when I was 2 years old. My maternal grandparents were military and lived in Idaho, my paternal grandparents were Japanese and were born here, grandpa from the big island of Hawaii and my grandma from Maui. I was raised by them here in Honolulu.
As far as I can remember I joined my grandmother in the kitchen where she spent a lot of time. I hugged her lots and I remember her scent, which always included what was on the stove. She would show me how to cut the carrots in traditional Japanese shapes, how to tie the konbu for the nishime. “You must always cut them in this shape…” she would tell me. As a child, I didn’t really understand why. I recall her telling me that she never tasted celery until she was into her 20’s and married to my grandfather here in Honolulu. I dunno, I always remember that as I love celery in a local-style beef stew.
Whenever she would serve dinner at the table she would always dish-out for me the best part of the dish, the meatiest pieces, the tenderest slices, and she would watch me eat saying thing s like “eat plenty so you can grow up big and strong”. There were things however, that she would not allow me to eat. One of these items I simply adored when she wasn’t looking. It was a simple green stringy seaweed, seasoned with sesame chili and some soy sauce. It was heaven over rice.
It was only years later that I talked about this seaweed with her. She admitted to me that when she was a child she grew up without a lot of money and she ate that seaweed when there wasn’t much more to eat, she told me that she did not want to see me consume “poverty” and always saw that I was well-fed. I explained to her that we now eat those things because we want to, not because we have to. We cried together and I was that child hugging her again.
As I grew older I would always bring her gifts of food, exquisite things that I know she relished but never had the opportunity to eat when she was younger. She died many years ago but I remember her constantly, especially when I prepare those dishes she would lovingly make for me… especially the seaweed. When I eat these dishes, I consume her love, not poverty, the love that she dished-out for me all those years. It has taken me many hours to write this. I took breaks to recompose myself and wipe away the tears-happy tears of of food, of love, of grandma.
The Hungry Planet book is on its way to Mitch!
Your stories reminded us how food is not just about what we taste in our mouths and how it fills our bellies. It also fills our souls. Whether they are family, friends, or strangers who we meet during our travels, food connects us to people, and to memories.
Thank you again! If you haven’t already, be sure to read all the wonderful comments and memories shared .