The Power of Food Memories

CATEGORIES: Lifestyle

So almost exactly 10 years ago, I shared this recipe for Chicken Pot Pie. To be completely honest, I don’t think I had made it or read that post in the 10 years since I had posted it, I just remembered that a) it was a lot of work, b) I really, really liked it, and c) it reminded me of a time of life that was somehow more simple and more complicated than now. Reading through the post was strange, because it felt so close and so long ago at the same time. My original intention was to post new pictures, clean up irrelevant text, take out some of the more personal stuff that didn’t feel as relevant anymore, and repost it.

chicken pot pie from our best bites

Because I know that food bloggers wax poetic and it’s not really in fashion anymore and I think we can all relate to this:

food bloggers stop talking

But I stumbled into that post and was taken back to another place and time and I couldn’t change anything. It reminded me of one of my most favorite scenes ever from Mad Men:


For better or worse, this blog has become a journal for Sara and me, little pockets of memories, things I had forgotten, most of them centered around food, which seems to have a strong hold on so many of my memories. Food, recipes, all of it takes me right back to a moment that happened years ago, but feels like moments.

that time when I was a better parent…

One of the things that has struck me as I’ve gone through old posts is my snobbery or judgmental attitudes toward a lot of things–parenting strategies, life choices, prepackaged foods. And then life happened. Kids got older, easier in some ways and harder in others. I did a lot of things I swore I would never do and stopped doing things I always swore I would (like that time I read a 60+ page Dr. Seuss book to my 5-day-old baby when we came home from the hospital. I hadn’t eaten or slept in 5 days, but by golly, my child was going to be a genius.)

better mom before I had kidsLast December, as my dear friend sat in the hospital with her unborn baby’s life hanging in the balance, we had a talk about how the world spends first 20-25 years of your life telling you that the world is your oyster and if you dream it, you can be it/have it/whatever it, and then it starts to wear you down (I actually think the actual terminology I used was “kick you in the crotch.” 🤷🏼‍♀️😂😬) Student loans for your arts degree come due, miscarriages happen, infertility strikes, kids rebel, young and healthy spouses get sick or pass away, marriages fall apart, your heart gets broken in a lot of different ways. And those hard edges start to soften and you realize life isn’t one size fits all and for heavens sake, if I want to use canned soup or my kid wants to play a game on my phone while we wait for our food in a restaurant, sometimes that’s gonna happen.

what’s worth it

In the Chicken Pot Pie post, I shared a recipe for homemade cream of chicken soup instead of using canned soup, which I prided myself in never using. I touted the virtues of using homemade pie crust and I even roasted my own “fauxtisserie” chicken instead of grabbing an already-roasted chicken for the same price from the grocery store deli. All done in the name of somehow loving my family more, or something. I can tell you exactly why I haven’t made this recipe in 10 years–because I’m NOT DOING ALL THAT. I can remember how much work it was and it wasn’t worth it. But here’s what was worth it.

  • When I was pulling the chicken meat from my (store-bought) rotisserie chicken, I remembered a sunny Sunday afternoon when my friend Kami and I sat in my kitchen, pulling chicken from rotisserie chickens for a well-intentioned but short-lived bout of meal prepping.
  • My blue pie plate reminded me of Sara and her love of this color and how our lives have intertwined over years of shared recipes, phone calls, text messages, book launches, speaking engagements, hotel stays, laughing, crying, our kids picking right up where they left off every time, and some of the darkest, hardest moments of both of our lives. I don’t know if God is involved in every friendship or detail of my life, but I truly believe that Sara has always been part of my “life plan.”
  • Rolling out the top pie crust for the pot pie, I wondered how I should vent it; my go-to has always been a lattice crust, but on a whim, I cut out a heart. pie crust on top of chicken pot pieMy freshman year of college, my roommate taught me how to make apple pie, the BEST apple pie, and her signature was the heart in the center of the crust. 3 years ago, she passed away from breast cancer, but this pie was a little  bit of her (not in a Game of Thrones kind of way, just that I had a fleeting, love-filled memory of someone gone, but not completely.

She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie

I don’t normally ruminate quite so much food. Sometimes dinner is just dinner and food is just food. But sometimes it’s more. Apparently Chicken Pot Pie is one of those times.

A couple of years ago, I heard a stunning performance of “She Used to be Mine” from the musical Waitress and it set me down a path I never thought I’d be on.

Some you have picked up on the fact that I’ve been going through some stuff over the last couple of years. I haven’t gone into details or a whole lot of specifics because it’s not entirely my story to tell and it’s also hard to be vulnerable and not feel like a failure. My husband and I separated a couple of years ago. We’re not divorced, and it’s kind of a complicated situation, and I’ve learned a lot. A lot. The word that kept coming into my head was “crucible,” and I didn’t even completely know what it meant other than that it a famous play/the “Crucible Cast Party” SNL skit with Lin-Manuel Miranda. So I looked up the word “crucible” and it means, “a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.” Feels about right. Sometimes I wish it never happened, that I never saw things for what they were, that I never opened my mouth, but, in the infinite wisdom of The Avett Brothers,

There’s no fortune at the end of the road
That has no end
There’s no returning to the spoils
Once you’ve spoiled the thought of them
There’s no falling back asleep
Once you’ve wakened from the dream
Now I’m rested and I’m ready and I’m ready to begin.

“February Seven”

There’s no going back to how things were. I couldn’t go back. That was a loss in and of itself.

ready to begin

I didn’t make chicken pot pie, a recipe I loved, for 10 years because there was an easy way and a hard way and I chose the hard way because I had this silly notion that if I spent 72 hours in the kitchen, I loved my family more or something. One thing I’ve learned in all of this is there are a million ways to do the right thing. You know how many people have asked my kids if they were c-section babies and then told them they were loved less because they we’re surgically extracted rather than born to a mother who didn’t get an epidural and listened to Enya and had her feet rubbed with essential oils? Absolutely zero people have told them that. Same thing goes for breast feeding vs. bottle feeding, cloth diapering vs. disposable diapers, preschool vs. Joy School, daycare vs. stay at home moms. As my kids have gotten older, the situations have gotten more complicated…sometimes I have to make decisions that break their hearts and it kills me. But I hope they remember at the end of the day, I love them more than anything and that I made Chicken Pot Pie for dinner and they have no idea that I used Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup and a couple of store-bought pie crusts.

the crucible

If I’ve ever made you feel “less-than” for anything, whether it’s in life or in the kitchen, I’m sorry. I’ve changed. I’m changing. That crucible thing is real, yo. “Life kicking you in the crotch” (sorry, y’all) has some transformative properties. Let me be the first to tell you that if you are feeding your kids, you’re doing a good job. If you’re getting them to school, you’re doing a good job. On those days when you literally pay your kids money to go to bed, you’re doing a good job. They are more resilient than we give them credit for. You have intrinsic worth that has absolutely ZERO correlation to your success or your family’s success or to the choices that other people make. You are stronger and more resilient than you think. You have not failed. Even (or especially) if you fed your family cereal for dinner when all you wanted to do was crawl in bed.

Love you all.

212 comments

  1. You are AMAZING and I completely needed this today. I live with the divorced mom guilt every single day, feeling like I’ve completely screwed up my kids putting them through hell when all I was trying to do was get them out of a bad situation and give them a better life. Your post gave me so much hope and encouragement. Thank you for being real!

  2. I laughed and cried reading this. You always have a way to connect with me through your words and yummy recipes. Thanks for being vulnerable and lovely and real.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing. It is beautiful and gives a sense of solidarity to know that everyone is going through something, and just doing what you can, is good enough. Have followed you for as long as I can remember. Love your posts and recipes. Stay strong! Sending love and hope.

  4. Love this! And even though my situation is different (rebellious teen), I can so relate to your words. Life has a way of humbling us and I’m learning how to be humbled, but not broken.
    Thanks for being vulnerable with us!

  5. ❤️ thanks for this. Sorry you’ve been going through some &%*#. I know you can handle the real word, maybe some other readers wouldn’t love it so much. As I’ve gotten older I also realize that the little things that used to matter don’t and we’ve gotta give ourselves, family, friends, church friends more grace and breathing room and a smile and hand out to help, and I think most people are learning that, so thanks for the reminder on all of that today.

    1. Thanks for being real. For being vulnerable. I have followed you and Sarah for a long long time! When I saw you both at TOFW in Harrisburg, PA, I knew that we’d be real life friends…if we knew each other in real life. So I’m sending a hug! From your friend.

    2. Today’s my 39th birthday. 3 of my 5 kids where late to school this morning, I haven’t showered and I’ve got at least 2 hours of deep cleaning before my house could be considered anything but gross. My 20 year old self would be appalled. I relate so much to your experience, and still struggle often with feelings of inadequacy. My oldest child has now left home and my regrets have nothing to do with whether I did, or did not, use cream of something soup (you were not alone in that, I have definitely been guilty of being a canned soup snob, I’m trying to do better). Thank you for sharing yourself with us, especially the hard stuff, and reminding me today of what’s most important. I have loved following your blog, making your recipes and sharing your journey. Praying for good things for you and yours! ♥️

  6. I’ve been thinking back on my judgement back in my early twenties too. And cringe at some of the things I thought or said. Now I’m expecting my 5th and my oldest is 11. Life sure teaches you lessons along the way. Sure is humbling and I still have the teenage years ahead, oh boy. One thing I’ve for sure learned is I never want to be the mean lady casting judgement at the store or doctors office, I want to be the one stepping in to help or smile in support.

  7. I’ve followed Our Best Bites since before it was Our Best Bites. I don’t know you or Sara in person, but I feel like I do. Thanks for keepin it real.

  8. I’ve been following this blog for at least a decade. I can only imagine how difficult it was to share this, but it’s beautiful. Thank you for your bravery. I do however ensure that every child in my community has the opportunity and access to swimming lessons regardless of the ability to pay because of you being vulnerable and sharing your stories.

  9. Just want to say thanks for sharing so much of yourself with me and my family over the years. I don’t know you personally but I truly love you!

    1. I’m a long time follower of yours and never did I feel less than! I always thought, “What a cute couple of friends with cute ideas and wonderful tips!” In those years that I’ve followed you, I’ve had my own “life kicked me in the crotch” moments but making food, simple or complicated melted my worries away. I’ve used many of your recipes over the years and I don’t intend to stop.

  10. I gotta be real. You are one of the only bloggers/instagram peeps I follow that DOESN’T make me feel like that. I value your honesty and vulnerability. <3 Appreciate you so much and sending lots of love and positive energy.

    1. I made my kids a hot breakfast from scratch every single day (I had a mother who never got up with us and cold cereal was the only option. I swore I would never do that). And guess what? My fourth child just left for college and they do things that make me cry at least three times a week and I wonder how it all went wrong and why the heck did I bust my chops so much? I still have two kids at home and at this point I’m like, “you’re on your own getting dinner” because I’m not about to keep knocking myself out when I’m beginning to realize that you can do all the fancy things for your kids and NONE OF IT MATTERS!!!!

      1. Your grown up kids may be still giving you a hard time, but I don’t believe that the hot breakfasts and all that you did for them was of no consequence. It might take some time and maturity before they realize the love and care that was in those breakfasts, but eventually they’ll hold onto those memories with fondness and appreciation for the awesome mother you are. 💜

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