- Jen Wise
According to my husband, “I’m always hungry.”
According to my children, “If you don’t want seconds, you’re not our mom!”
It’s no secret that I love food—cooking it, eating it, serving it, reading about it, photographing it, and when I’m feeling especially ambitious, growing it. There’s something sacred about receiving what the earth has to offer and truly relishing its goodness. Good food nourishes the body and has limitless potential for nourishing the soul.
I come from a family of food-lovers, men and women who appreciate good, well-prepared food, as well as serving it to others. Because what’s great food without hospitality? How can you fully enjoy anything good without sharing it with another?
My childhood years are filled with food related memories… and not just “I got to have a huge ice cream sundae at camp!” memories, but memories of feeling loved, known, and deeply cared for. Memories that remind me how blessed I am to have grown up in that place, in that time, in that family.
I remember one day each fall I’d walk home from the bus, straight into the aroma of apples and cinnamon. Before I had my hand on the front door I’d know: my mom had spent the day making applesauce. Even better? I’d get a warm bowl of it right then while I sat at the counter and poured out every detail of my day.
I can still picture my dad kneading dough for fresh bread—simultaneously strong (with his gruff man-hands) and nurturing. I picture him cooking up fresh caught fish. I laugh, thinking of the times he’d sneak me for a burger and shake as we drove home from piano lessons, definitely spoiling my appetite.
Summertime—picking strawberries at the farm. My parents would joke that I’d eat more than I’d pick. It was true.
Dinnertime—when my mom would casually add a homemade macaroni and cheese dish to an already full table, because “after I was done making dinner, I had a little extra time, and I know how much you love macaroni and cheese.”
Visiting my grandparent’s house was like being enveloped in a big, delicious food hug. Every detail, every ‘favorite,’ my grandmother considered it all. The consummate cook and hostess, she always had a warm meal ready and waiting when we walked in the door.
After she passed, we went to visit my grandpa for the first time and walked inside to find a large red Le Creuset simmering on the stove, waiting for our arrival. What a gift to us… What an honor to her legacy of an open home and an open heart.
These are the things that really stick with me. These are the memories that nudge me to save space in my schedule for inviting another family to dinner, dropping off a special treat for a tired friend, or cooking a favorite breakfast for my kids. Because cooking for someone shares so much more than just food, it shares your heart and yourself.
Earlier this year our family entered into some pretty weighty days. Health issues cropped up that sent our rhythm and emotions haywire. Initially I declined offers for help—technically I could handle it myself. And, I thought, worst-case scenario, we order takeout. We won’t starve.
Yet as the heavy days turned into heavy weeks, and those weeks accumulated into months, I began to wear out. I received an email from a friend, “I’m bringing a meal. You can’t say no. Let me know when to stop by.” And that was that. She brought the meal (really, multiple meals all in one big bag), and as she drove away I stared at this gracious, beautiful meal, now unpacked on my countertop, and just cried.
And then, I heard from another friend. And another. And then they worked together and brought us meals for weeks. All these grace-filled, healthy, beautiful meals… and each time my heart was overwhelmed, and each time I cried over their sweet offering.
Maybe this is why Jesus describes himself as the bread of life, broken for us. And maybe this, cooking and serving and feasting and sharing, this is one way we can model his love and pass it on to those around us. Because when we offer ourselves to nourish the bodies and souls of another, it is more than just meal delivery. And when we wash and chop and roast and whisk, it’s more than just putting dinner on the table—it’s pouring our lives into someone else.
So let’s serve our families, friends, and neighbors well. Let’s pour out ourselves in big and small ways through thoughtfulness and hospitality. Let’s extend the bread of life that’s been graciously given to us.