The concept of love languages was developed by Gary Chapman, Ph.D., in his book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chapman describes these five unique styles of communicating love, categories he distilled from his experience in marriage counseling. Though people may relate with aspects of all the types, usually one type is preferred or strongest. It is fascinating to read about the types and ponder them. However, in my opinion, one love language is missing. Food. Food is my love language.
What do I mean by that? The action of preparing, serving, sharing, and enjoying food with loved ones has been modeled by my family for generations.
The gift of food
My paternal grandmother lived on a fixed income in a tiny one bedroom apartment. Her walk-in closet/storage area housed a chest freezer full of ice cream pails stuffed with cookies. Grandma would spend a chuck of her Social Security checks around the holidays baking cookies for her kids and grandkids. With seven children, more than a dozen grandchildren, and more great-grandchildren, she gifted cookies. She didn’t have much, but she shared her baking talent and made everyone’s favorite cookies.
I don’t know when exactly we stopped giving birthday gifts in my family, but I can tell you the exact year my brother made me a turkey on the grill for my birthday. What a labor of love! I still have the video of him basting it on the piping hot grill. Best turkey ever!
When I moved once, our family friend gifted an entertainment center for my new place. She also brought all the fixings for a spaghetti dinner as a housewarming present. I know I was more excited about dinner than the TV stand. Both were lovely gifts, yet my heart was warmed by the food.
I still cannot leave my parent’s house without food in tow. Like, literally TODAY my Dad had a to-go bag of homemade baked beans ready for me when I dropped off some groceries for them. Don’t even get me started on how many bags of food I brought back to college after a trip home… To my hungry-college-student-self, nothing says “I love you” more than box of name brand Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Special requests on holidays and celebrations
In my community, it’s not uncommon to ask people what they want to eat on special occasions. I’m pretty sure I knew exactly what I was going to request for my Confirmation and High School Graduation at least a couple years in advance. Because the menu items were my favorite foods! Strawberry pretzel salad, potato salad, barbeque beef sandwiches, marble cake, relish tray. How can I still remember this so many years later? Those menus were an act of love.
My parents certainly didn’t spoil my brother and I in the traditional way, but they were amazing at achieving all of our “special day” food dreams. Some people may think this is just planning a menu. Yes, it is; and it feels like much more! Having the authority to choose the meal is a special honor. As a child, I felt like a grown-up.
The heart for food
I find myself drawn to others who have a heart for the traditions of food and food preparation. Through college, I worked at a dinnerware store. When I applied, I was giddy at the chance to be around all the dishes. (Can’t believe I just admitted that…) I found myself surrounded with co-workers who were as entertainment-nutty as I was! New dinnerware patterns arrived, and we swarmed to coo and gaze. When it came down to it though, it was the entertaining and bringing people together around food that we all had in common. We had some pretty stellar potlucks while I worked there.
Speaking of potlucks, here’s another group of people I am magnetized to. Parties where everyone brings their favorite snacks, salads, entrée or desserts? Sign me up! Table conversation usually consists of, “What did you bring?” and, “Did you try the XYZ?” As a baker, I love a potluck gone wild. You know the kind: everyone shows up with a dessert. Yes, please! I fit right in.
I’m almost a year into my bakery business. I have to say, I have fallen into another group of people who love food as much as I do – my new-found Cottage Food Producer friends. Like me, they own businesses where they produce their products in-home and sell locally. This group of people has been so helpful and supportive of me, even as a potential competitor. We have a common bond of loving to share food with others, and we get to live our dream doing it.
Mindful eating is to eat with love
There’s so much to receive by mindful eating. Trust me, I have emotionally eaten, over-indulged, and escaped through food. What mindful eating gives me is the chance to be present, nourish my body, and enjoy something without remorse. When I think about how food can be a gift, can connect me to others, and offers occasions for tradition and memories, I see all the opportunities for mindfulness. There are so many ways food is a language of love. And for me, the key to understanding that is mindfulness.