Saying I love you with food.

When I think of belonging, friendship, fellowship and love, it often involves food. My mom’s cinnamon and sugar pancakes on wet, cloudy days; a braai being lit announcing summer; toasted cheese sandwiches while my best friend and I talk deep into the night; my brother’s lamb rib, because that is how he tells me he loves me; my husband’s perfect cup of coffee, delivered to me in bed, just the way I love it; my grandmother’s Sunday roast when all 14 of my first cousins and I would gather to feast together; bovril on white toast when I am sick; egg mayo sandwiches while I cling to a wet tissue after a funeral; coleslaw and chakalaka at a traditional wedding; take-away pizza to appease my working mother’s guilt.

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We don’t always need to use words to say we care. We can build these bridges in many ways. One of them is food. It rolls three of the five love languages into one: acts of service, quality time and gifts.

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When I had surgery in 2016 a group of girlfriends delivered home cooked meals every night for three weeks. I felt loved, fed, validated and special. Someone wise once said that we would be able to stop all wars if we could just gather around a table and have a good meal. I agree. It is very difficult to fight whilst enjoying the perfect lasagne in front of you.

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I recently read that there was a woman in Montreal Canada, who got a new neighbour. The neighbour would play loud music every night until 3am. It drove her nuts. If it were me, I would have banged on his door or called the police. But she is not me. So, she baked a pound cake. She baked it for him, the noisy neighbour!

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In the morning she delivered the cake to him with a note that said, “This morning at 3am I thought of you and made you this cake. Tomorrow morning, at 3am, please will you think of me, and turn your music down.”

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Instead of a confrontation, a beautiful friendship was formed. The noisy neighbour had recently lost his daughter in a car crash and the loud music helped him grieve, but after that, his new friend helped him too.

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Our bodies need food to survive, but so do our souls. During recovery your pace slows down. Thinking of meals and looking forward to them is a big part of the day. I know my guests are fed the best quality, most delicious meals ever, but I also know that it is served with love. For our guests that can not cut their own food, we always present it beautifully, plated to perfection. And then, in front of them, we cut it into small pieces before we feed them with a spoon.

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Just like we ask you what your favourite flower is before you arrive so we can have it ready in a vase when you check in, we ask you what your favourite meals are. Being reminded of what you love, why you want to get better and who you are, is all part of the complex and beautiful journey of recovery.

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