The emotional power of food has long been of interest to me. You can learn so much about a person by seeing what comes out of their home kitchens. And even more watching what meals they turn to time and time again, what they cook to celebrate moments of triumph, the dishes they serve to ease a loved one’s heart break, food that feels comforting and comfortable. Certain tastes can cultivate memories, happy AND sad, traveling you through time and feelings and emotions until you reach home. Whatever home may mean to you.
Today, I’ve asked four ladies I admire to tell us about the meals they make to connect with their own feelings of home. Here’s what they had to say…
“My dish is a Shiitake Marscapone Ravioli served with a savory sweet potato mash with pesto drizzle. Raviolis really take me to my happy place. Early on my Mom, Nana and Aunts would slave over making traditional raviolis for family gatherings. I remember how labor intensive they were and coming from a large Italian American family there was no such thing as a small batch. In an effort to get the same home made feeling without spending an entire day in the kitchen I discovered this fabulous recipe and tweaked it to suit my needs and level of laziness:). My grandmother has influenced me as a home cook in so many ways, she has taught me to be innovative and versatile in the kitchen. She has also ingrained a zero waste mentality (long before it was trendy) as she survived the great depression, among other hardships. Growing up in the greater Boston area my heritage is considered a badge of honor, however I’ve come to love my life here in Lexington, KY and would wholeheartedly claim Kentucky as my home.” – Sheryl H.L. (If you’re in the area, I HIGHLY recommend you visit Sheryl at Broomwagon, a bike and coffee shop in Lexington that frequently offers dishes with unique tastes of home.)
“Cabbage and smoked sausage, cooked with bacon grease and (hopefully) some sweet cornbread on the side. It reminds me of home; I remember my mom whipping up this quick, tasty, filling meal many a night throughout my childhood and even today when I cook it I think of her. This meal brings back memories of my dad too–it was the last meal I saw him eat before he passed away 15 years ago. Every time I eat it, I think of my family, my childhood…my home. I now live in Madison, Wisconsin, but am a Kentucky girl born and bred! I’m from Hodgenville–LaRue County for all my fellow Kentuckians.” – Ashley L.
“You would never know it from looking at me now, but growing up I played A LOT of sports. Swimming, tennis, cross county- you name it and I did it. I was always on the go and I was always STARVING. This unfortunately left my mother with the ridiculously extensive task of feeding me… as well as my three brothers. Needless to say, things had to get creative and foods had to be heavy. Growing up in Kentucky it wasn’t hard to find those “heavy” recipes, the recipes that contained more calories than most people eat in an entire week. Now that all of my brothers and myself are adults (ish) my mother wouldn’t go within 10 feet of these recipes but, these were the jackpot back in the day. The dish I have picked to share is Buttermilk Chicken. This particular food gives me the weirdest mix of “yum” and “ugh” feelings. My mom would make this for me after a long day of swim practices and I would come home, reeking of chlorine, and MOW DOWN at the kitchen table. So, “Yum” because it is delicious but “ugh” because I only remember getting it after several hours of exercise. Regardless of the “yum” and “ugh”, this meal brings back some great memories for me of home. When I was 15, going to bed with a full belly was pretty much all I needed. I currently live in Indianapolis, but this dish in particular reminds me that I will always consider Kentucky my home.” – Katie N.
“When I search my feelings for the food that stirs up a sense of “home” the most, it’s definitely your standard, common spaghetti. Nothing exotic or elaborate– just the typical combination of tomato sauce and noodles. (My ideal bowl comes with a bit more sauce than noodle and plenty of toppings.) Growing up, my idea of “home” was ever-changing. Moves, divorces, remarriages, and more divorces made it difficult for me to tie the emotion of home to any specific place. Instead, it’s the people in my life that have created home for me. For some years I lived with my dad in my late grandfather’s home. He worked incredibly hard as a concrete finisher and sometimes throwing Ragu onto some al dente noodles was the best he could do for dinner. Spaghetti was our favorite meal and now when I visit CA to see him and my younger siblings, it’s the only meal we can agree on. I offer to cook so that I can make it a bit more nutritious and fun. It makes me think of gathering around my grandfather’s dining table that likely hasn’t been cleared off for a meal since I last visited. I think of laughing with them and the pleasure of seeing everyone’s plate totally clean within 5 minutes and full again with a second serving in 6. In my current home it is also an almost weekly choice for a meal. This photo is of a bowl we made last night to bring us comfort after a long weekend of wedding photography. It’s delicious, nostalgic, and you really can’t do it wrong. That’s my favorite kind of comfort food!” – Carrie G.
Thank you SO MUCH to these four wonderful women for sharing! I think you’re all fantastic and your meals sound like perfection on a plate (and give me ALL the feels).
Now I’d love to know, what foods connect YOU to a feeling of home? Is it a dish passed down through the generations? A simple meal that tastes remarkably like childhood summer vacations? Share below!
P.S. If you haven’t done so already, please consider answering a few questions over on my 2015 Reader Survey. Thanks!