Food Story: Emily & What’s Food Got To Do With It?

Can you believe it’s Friday again, already? Where did all the time go? This week, there have been major computer issues here so I’ve not been able to get much done. I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get any new posts up, this week, but I was able to get at least one good one for you. Emily has a great food story and she blogs over at http://em-i-lis.com where her tagline is … Musings from a servantless, stay-at-home, cooking-obsessed mom.

In my early twenties, shortly after graduating from college and breaking up with the man I’d thought I’d marry, I moved to New York. Manhattan. The City. I sublet the living room of a terrible, 5th floor, walk-up apartment some acquaintances inhabited. The floor was so slanted that if you closed the door too forcefully  on your way out, the freezer swung open, and the only appliance I really remember was a hot dog toaster, one of those “how did this make it to the market?” fad items in which you could toast two hot dogs and two buns concurrently. It, like the apartment, seemed perennially dirty, crusted with crumbs and grease, though I never actually saw it being used.

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As I struggled to manage heartache and a certifiably insane boss, I lost sight of the comfort and succor eating well provides. Growing up in Louisiana, food was central: family, traditions, holidays, celebrations, mourning…they all, in some ways, constellated around cooking and eating together. In NYC, however, thin was in, and meals became lonely tributes to the bevy of fat-free fare that studded the inner aisles of my neighborhood Gristedes. I loved NY with a passion, but my life there was imbalanced and hard. After three years, I decided to move back to the South, nearer my family. But then I met the man who would become my husband.

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He loved to eat, and he loved me. Though he lived in DC, we spent as much time together as our budgets, work and the USAir shuttle would allow. Our days in NY were magical- long, lazy walks punctuated by meals and libations whenever the mood struck. As I fell in love with him, I slowly reclaimed my appetite, for food, life and love, which had been tamped down and jaded.

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Fast forward a few years, and our first son arrived. Nursing him was so elemental and fulfilling. In feeding him, it became clear that I was also nourishing myself. Watching him grow and thrive, I realized how much I’d deprived myself by letting go of my culinary roots, by forgetting all the afternoons spent in the kitchen next to my mom, grandmother and aunts, stirring a gumbo, canning cranberry sauce, making teacakes. In the halo of these memories, I returned to the kitchen, ostensibly on my son’s behalf, but in retrospect I see it was for me, too. I challenged myself to correct the erroneous notions of health and nutrition that had become etched in my brain: how could I give my little boy the best if I didn’t really know what that was? How could I encourage optimal eating habits in him if I didn’t model them myself?

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As I cooked and read and learned and ate, we all grew. My husband’s waistline might wish for different, but there is nothing fat-free to be found in our home now. My firstborn is almost 6, his brother is 3, and they eat with the passion and appetite of Mario Batali. We spend every Sunday morning at the farmer’s market- tasting, eating, befriending, supporting. We talk about animal welfare and agriculture in America, and use our purchasing power to try and make our voices heard in these increasingly political and moral realms. Our kitchen is the nexus of our home, the place from which I write my blog, run a small catering business, feed my boys and make yet another batch of fresh ricotta.

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Cooking for others is one of the most basic ways of loving them. In taking care of my family, I have come full circle, learning again how to nurture myself. The rough edges of my twenties have given way to the softer contours of my advancing thirties. There’s something about a warm hearth, a canning pot bubbling away on the stove, the smell of freshly baked anything, laughing as my little boys ask for “more cornichons, please” that leaves me feeling whole. I am happy, fulfilled, sated.

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Emily – http://em-i-lis.com

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. Nice to meet you Emily! Having been raised in the south myself, I can’t imagine leaving home and moving to NYC! What a culture shock! I moved to New Mexico which was a culture shock but in a much different way than NYC! I moved to calm and laid back (mañana), not crowded and hectic. :) Sounds like you have done well and fit right in. Do people make fun of your long “i’s” and “y’all”? :) After 30 years here, I still get teased. Thanks for sharing your wonderful story!
    mjskit recently posted … Shepherd’s Pie, New Mexico StyleMy Profile

    • Hi mjskit, thanks so much for your note. where did you grow up? i loved NYC so much but it was definitely hard at times. i moved there from chicago (college) so it wasn’t too huge a change but i do think if i’d gone straight from louisiana to NY, i’d have had some whiplash! unfortunately, my long “i’s” have faded, but i love y’all and keep it going. :)
      Emily recently posted … Gianduja, great wine at Ripple, cheese straws and moreMy Profile

      • Emily, I grew up in Shreveport and then moved to Natchitoches. That’s where I went to college and got married and worked for a couple of years before moving to NM. Where did you live? Yep – I thought I had gotten rid of the long “i” as well, but when I say that to friend just the other day, I thought she was going to die laughing. :) I can see that Chicago would have softened the blow a little.

    • MJ – Just wanted to say thanks for stopping by :-)

  2. Great story – really interesting, and told so well. NYC is a tough place. I worked there for a decade, and enjoyed it, but I’m glad I’m no longer there! Although I do miss it sometimes. And I’m with you on fat-free — far better to eat moderately and watch total intake rather than eat an unbalanced diet. Anyway, good stuff — thanks.
    john recently posted … Anise Drop CookiesMy Profile

  3. I absolutely love this. Such a heartwarming, wonderful story. Thank you for sharing Emily :)
    Kayle (The Cooking Actress) recently posted … Something Saturdays (12/15/12)My Profile

  4. Thank you for introducing Emily and her story it was a fantastic read :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru
    Choc Chip Uru recently posted … Guest Post #4: Chestnut BreadMy Profile

  5. Emily and Cj – what a great story and it was a warm change from what most of today held on the TV at least. Just another reminder that what we are is what’s inside – not what we have. Lovely story indeed.
    Kalamity Kelli recently posted … Evil Skeevers (Aebleskivers)My Profile

    • Thank you for your kind words, Kelli – I had not seen the news before I posted this so I was beating myself up for such bad judgment (after I found out). Feeling a little better now :-)

  6. Thank you, C.J. for the honor of this post. The pics look great!
    Kim, I lived on the Upper East Side. Good to know times, they’ve a’changed. :)

  7. Hi Emily! *waves* I liked your story. I’m not sure where you were living in the city though. Most places I know would scoff at the idea of fat free.
    Kim recently posted … Chocolate Peppermint Icebox CakeMy Profile

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