Food can be a symbol of love. It can create togetherness and warmth. In our Great August Giveaway, we asked you to tell us,
What’s your favorite memory of a meal with friends or family?
Your responses shed light on the power of food – as well as on the power we have to make simple things – like ramen or freezer-burned ice cream sandwiches -- seem like delicious meals.
Below is our winning response, as well as our three honorable mentions. The range in responses reflects the range in how we can approach food, and what food means to us.
It was just another meal; actually it was the best meal of my life. Ironically, I’m not even sure I remember what I ate. Truth is this meal was what I feasted on the day I said, “No More!” No more starving myself to be thin. No more missing a meal just to fit in. No more hating the image in the mirror. No more!
Soup’n’salad, a hamburger, or spaghetti – it really doesn’t matter what I ate that day. What does matter is that I ate.
Little did I know the meal would represent my launch into years of healing and looking in the mirror and finally loving the woman looking back at me. Little did I know my experiences would be shared with thousands of little girls, teens and young adults as I conduct workshops across the nation about high self-esteem and healthy lifestyle choices. Little did I know that I would break bread with many workshop attendees while sharing both my test of once having low self-esteem and an eating disorder as well as my testimony and platform as a Quintessential Faith-Filled Fabulously-Fierce Full -Figured Female and the reigning Ms. Plus America 2010.
Freezer-burned ice cream sandwiches.
Perhaps it’s an unusual choice, but my grandmother’s stash of these chilly treats is a childhood memory so vivid I can almost taste it. On a hot summer day in L.A. (which, in our neck of the woods, stands for “Lower Alabama”), my siblings and cousins and I would run inside, throw open the freezer, and work diligently on peeling the wrappers from the warped bars.
Unlike the stereotypical Southern grandmother, Edwina Morgan Murphy couldn’t cook. At all. She burned rice. “Orange juice” at Grandmama’s house was a glass of water mixed with a spoonful of frozen orange concentrate. She once served my sister cold pizza she’d ordered the night before because Grandmama had heard that’s what college kids eat for breakfast.
Some grandmothers teach how to cook, bake and sew. Grandmama Edwina, on the other hand, taught me to overcome weakness, laugh off mistakes, and make a meal less about the food and more about the company.
Grandmama lost her battle with Alzheimer’s last night. Today, her legacy lives on through those of us whom she publicly and proudly proclaimed as the “best family in the world.”
We miss you, Grandmama.
My favorite memory of a family meal happened over 15 years ago when we celebrated my mother's graduation from nursing school. I do not remember what we ate, or even who helped prepare it. What I do remember was the sense of pride and admiration I had for the woman who not only survived, but who flourished against all odds. I watched after 18 years of marriage, 4 children, zero job skills, my mother pack up her children and leave her abusive husband. We had come full circle from a shelter for abused women and children, to night school, and finally graduation. I am not sure if she knows how her strength and choices have fueled many of my steps into adulthood and a family of my own. She could have done nothing, but she chose to fight. By doing so she set an example that will endure generations. At that very "celebration" dinner I saw not only victory in my mother's eyes...I saw peace. Thanks mom, for all you have done and continue to do. Your actions nourish my soul in so many ways. Oh and your pot roast ROCKS!
On we go
One of my weekly chores as a little girl was to set the dinner table for my family. There was six of us. My mother every night would make me set an extra place setting. Being only seven I never questioned or understood why. One day a girl from our neighborhood needed some help with math. She was in one of my older sister's classes. She had stopped by for help just minutes before our family was about to sit down for dinner. Without any hesitation my mother said to this little girl "We have been waiting for you, go wash your hands and come sit down for dinner with us". The neighbor girl hurried off and then returned with the biggest smile. We had our dinner that night with even more chatter and laughter. Five little girls all under the age of 12.
When I was helping clear the dinner table, I said to my mom "Were we really waiting for her so we could start dinner?". "Yes" she replied. She then whispered to me, "God knew too. That is why we always set an extra plate at our table. We must always be ready for someone that may need to share a meal and some company. We must not let our guest know that we really had no idea that they were coming. We always want that person to feel welcomed and wanted in our home". I really didn't fully understand until years later. When my father passed in 2005 I heard from the neighbor girl. She told me how grateful she was that my family always invited her to have dinner. She was more amazed that the seventh place setting was always set before she ever showed up. She shared with me that her parents were hardly ever home and she was on her own for dinner most nights. She wanted me to know that she would never forget the kindness my family showed her. My mother taught fourth grade until she was 72. She is now 81. She always knew when a child needed just a little more. Whether it was a meal, a hug, or just a ear to listen. She knew. In my mind, my mother has demonstrated Minerva qualities my entire life. Thanks Mom!