I’ve been thinking a lot about food today. “Shocker. When are you not thinking about food?” Fair. But today it was specifically about comfort food.
I didn’t know my day was going to go long today. I didn’t know it would intertwine stewarding the grief of two families at once. I didn’t know I would be invited at the end of the day to enter into that thin place where the mystery of life at its end looms as large as the awe of life at its beginning; a brutiful invitation I hold lightly each time I accept.
I did know, however, that I wanted a slice of veggie pizza for lunch. I had it with some honeydew and cantaloupe… and ketchup.
I haven’t had pizza dipped in ketchup in years. Decades, really. The last time I had pizza with ketchup was in Brazil, where I learned this trick.
I’ve noticed that during and right after a grief group series, my draw to comfort food is much stronger. My comfort foods are pretty much limited to Mexican and Brazilian cuisine, and I think that means something.
The pull to put ketchup on my pizza today was strong and vivid. And it was delicious. Not as amazing as my favorite Brazilian pizza, shredded chicken with catupiry cheese and corn, but yummy nonetheless.
In Brazil at the lunch counters and restaurants, there are always bottles of ketchup – it goes with everything. I ate my lunch with colleagues and enjoyed laughter and the light streaming in through the conference room window.
And I thought about food. I thought about the lunch counters in Brazil, fresh squeezed orange juice, and giant brigadeiros. I thought about how my best memories are tied to food – the first ones to Brazilian pizza, and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches; those little mini sugar cookies with guava paste sandwiched between them, and chocolate dipped honey bread.
Stewarding grief – another’s, our own, a nation’s… is intense emotional work. It takes a toll that if left untended will chip away at a soul, little by little; almost unnoticeable at first.
Sometimes in response to all the intensity, a desire to return to a memory of a simpler time or a reminder of a feeling of being utterly cared for is overwhelming and in a capitalist society, when it hits, you’re most likely at work. We reach for what’s available.
I think food was always meant to remind us of mystical connections that make our human experience. I think it was never meant to be made into a convenience, but to be shared in community as gathered folx on the same journey; the great human experience, shared stories, creation care tips, gardening/livestock/butchery expertise, and always room for one more at the table.
I think we reach for comfort food because something inside of us is trying to rekindle and reclaim that mystical connection to the land, ingredients, and persons responsible for bringing our food from farm to table; to reconnect with community, welcome, and love.
I didn’t know how this afternoon would unfold, but somehow, I offered preeminent comfort on a hunch, and that pizza dipped in ketchup carried me through the afternoon into the evening.
I end the day grateful: for a bed and fluffy pillows, a supportive partner, a worthless but adorable lump of fur at my feet, and for pizza and ketchup.