We all speak the language of food

6-25 Page 4A.inddMaybe you don’t consider yourself bilingual. And when you fill out an application for employment, perhaps you answer the question that now appears more often, “Are you fluent in a foreign language?” with a no.

But you must not underestimate your abilities.

If you are a human being living on planet Earth, you are much more accomplished than you may think. You are a master of a universal language that has more power to unite people and communicate than Spanish, Latin, French, Russian or Mandarin.

And that is the language of food.

Everyone must eat to stay alive. It doesn’t matter if you are a head of state or a chimney sweep — you have a favorite food that has strong emotional associations.

Food is more than simple sustenance of the body. Good food speaks of love and caring.

There is a treasure trove in my kitchen. Grandmama’s big crockery mixing bowl proudly displays marks from a century of mixing, beating and stirring. Consider the number of cakes mixed in this bowl and baked in the ovens of three generations.

Grandmama began her reign in the kitchen in 1912. But she was schooled in the kitchens of her grandmother, aunts and own dear mother.

She was a renowned cook and an extraordinary baker. Her custards were smooth and creamy, her gravies were perfection and her fried chicken was beyond compare.

When cakes were auctioned at fundraisers, hers were sought after, and competition for them was hot and heavy among the bidders.

Her vast collection of recipes were recorded not only on paper in her beautiful copperplate handwriting, but in her memory, and she seldom had to consult a cookbook to produce something delectable.

The battered tube pan used baking fruit cakes, pound cakes and angel food cakes is one of my dearest possessions.

Just taking it from the shelf brings her into my kitchen. When I make a pound cake now, I hear her voice cautioning when eggs are separated. “Be careful. Don’t let any of the yellows mix into the whites.”

All I have to do is take the cap from a bottle of vanilla extract and inhale the scent to trigger an onslaught of memories.

She let me help. I can see her now, dressed neatly in skirt and blouse covered with her Goose Girl Flour apron, supervising and patiently instructing as I stood on a chair to slowly crack and separate eggs. She let me add sugar and flour, showed me how to grease and flour cake pans and let me cut out the biscuits. She always smelled of Chantilly, her perfume, with a slight faint scent of vanilla. She taught me so much at the kitchen table and in such a way I never realized the real lessons of living she was passing on.

Preparing food and sharing it is the first great language of love. It is a gift from the heart and is one of most basic ways we communicate caring to others. So carry on the tradition. Cook, feed and love.