Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
Getting Real about Jesus and Our Messy Lives
by Daniel Fusco, with contributions from D. R. Jacobsen
Why Love Supreme Tastes So Good
In the family I grew up in, food was a love language. They fed those whom they loved. Before I could ride a bike I was digging into spaghetti with garlic and oil or chowing down on shrimp scampi over fettuccini. A single bite of anything Grandma made was a life-altering experience.
So naturally, when I went to college, I did what most freshman guys do: turned vegetarian.
It wasn't for the animals' sake, either—it was for mine. During my first week, I stared through the cafeteria sneeze-guard at a parade of meats that just looked . . . wrong. And they tasted worse. I didn't know much, but I knew meatloaf wasn't supposed to be gray, and chicken wasn't supposed to feel like rubber when I tried to chew it. So I called it quits as a carnivore and reluctantly converted to a salad-and-cereal diet.
My Italian grandmother's kitchen
At least until my first visit home. Back in my grandmother's kitchen while she cooked, I breathed in deep through my nose. Rosemary, stewed tomatoes, garlic, and the sweet-savor of sausage and peppers. It was good to be back in the land of real food—so good that I wanted to hang onto it.
"Grandma," I said around a mouthful of stolen bread that I had conveniently dropped in the saucepan, "you gotta teach me how to cook some of this stuff—the food's so bad at college. Look, I've already lost fifteen pounds!"
She glanced up from the pot she was stirring, tsk-tsk'ed at how her grandson was wasting away before her eyes, and began to narrate her cooking for me. The next minutes were filled with "just a pinch of this, or more if you feel like more," and "just long enough to bring out the spice." Nothing was written. Everything was guided by her nose, her taste buds, and her decades of experience.
Ingredients of love supreme
At first I felt confident. Like, I could totally make that! But as my grandmother's instructions piled up and blurred together, I began to realize that it would take a lot longer than half an hour to learn a lifetime of cooking wisdom. "Grandma," I finally burst out, "you never use recipes, so how come everything still tastes so good?"
She smiled from ear to ear, and probably would have reached up to pinch my cheek if her hands hadn't been buried in a bowl of salad ingredients. "Danny," she cooed—and sorry to interrupt the quote, but here you should definitely read with an exaggerated New York Italian accent—"my cooking tastes so good because I put a lot of love into it!"
Now that I'm so much older and wiser than I was in college (ahem), I know that with practice, anyone can cook a decent chicken parmigiana. But to cook chicken parmigiana that makes all others taste like warm cardboard? That takes some serious love. Love was the secret ingredient that Grandma added to absolutely everything she cooked. And she was right: that was why her food tasted so good.
Love each other
Now, since this is an article more about Jesus than my grandma, let's connect her cooking to Jesus.
One of Jesus' disciples and friends, John, writes about this in 1 John 4, but I'm going to shorten it a bit:
Friends, let's love each other!
Since love comes from God, we can know God by truly loving each other—just like a lack of love is a sign that we don't know God.
And we know God loves us like this: God sent his Son, Jesus, to live with us, and to love us, so that we could learn how to live and love in the same way.
That's one reason we ought to love each other . . . we might not be able to see God, but we can't miss the evidence of God's love all around us when we love each other.
My Italian grandmother cooks the way God does everything.
Isn't that a rad riff on love? My Italian grandmother cooks the way God does everything.
And here's the crazy part. She doesn't cook with love after I tell her how much I enjoy her food—she cooks with love before anyone sits down to eat. Her love is preemptive, so it sweetens everything she prepares, no matter who is sitting down to eat it.