The second you walked into my Grandma Cora’s house you smelled the fragrance of onions, ginger, and garlic sautéing. She was always swirling pancit noodles in her big pot and you could hear the music of the carrots and celery dancing as she added a splash of soy sauce.
No matter what time of day – morning, noon, or night – Grandma always had something going in the kitchen.
Sometimes she would invite me to the table to roll Filipino lumpia with the aunties. We would scoop little portions of filling onto the egg roll wrappers. Tuck-flip-flip-roll. Tuck-flip-flip-roll.
Their fingers would fly, and I would try to keep up. I loved to listen to their stories of growing up in Hawaii and later raising their kids together in the Bay Area.
Somehow Grandma could make some rice and a package of chicken legs stretch to feed a multitude. There were always cousins, neighbors, and strangers showing up at the table like hungry baby birds eager for Grandma’s cooking.
Her hospitality was paramount. She embodied the words in Hebrews 13:2 that remind us not to “forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
Her family, including six kids, immigrated from the Philippines to the Hawaiian islands when she was a girl. Their Filipino culture blended in with the locals. They embodied the Hawaiian spirit of aloha that extended welcoming arms to all. They had a way of making strangers into family.
Across the country, in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, my Grandma Sara stands at the stove mixing marinara sauce with her wooden spoon. From the front porch, you can smell the rich aroma of garlic, basil, oregano and tomatoes swirling together.
Even when we arrive from our Chicago home late at night, Grandma always has a full meal prepared. She knows how to spoil weary travelers. My brother and I race to pluck chunks of cheese, pepperoni and black olives from Grandma’s special tray.
My Italian Grandma is very particular about setting the table just right. We pull up our chairs and settle in to feast as a family. I sink my teeth into layers of cheese, marinara sauce and eggplant.
I can close my eyes today, and I can still taste it. Nothing rivaled my grandma’s eggplant parmigiana.
Hospitality is the generous and gracious treatment of guests. My Grandma Sara also modeled for me the power of hospitality. Her joy was in serving others. Many of our favorite family recipes we still make today came from her repertoire.
At the kitchen table, Grandma kneaded Italian Easter bread dough and shaped love knot cookies. She showed me what strength and courage looked like dressed in an apron.
DIFFERENT FOODS, SHARED LEGACY
My Grandma Cora has a Filipino-Polynesian-Indian heritage, while my Grandma Sara comes from an Italian heritage. Although they are from very different countries, cultures and backgrounds, they have both helped me understand the importance of nourishing ourselves and others well and savoring the provision God has given us.
When my three daughters were starting to eat table food and exploring new tastes, I taught them this value of savoring their food. I took them to our local farmer’s market to marvel at purple cauliflower, plump white peaches, and fuchsia pink swiss chard.
My daughters are always invited into the kitchen with me. We also don’t rush eating. We enjoy our time cooking together and delighting in the fruits of our labor.
One afternoon when some friends were visiting, I overheard my middle daughter teaching her friend the word “savor.” My 4-year-old was explaining how we must savor each bite. She demonstrated how to take a bite, close your eyes, and linger over the taste. I laughed out loud with delight. She had been paying attention!
This, too, is part of both of my grandmas’ legacies.
JESUS’ FOOD MINISTRY
As I think over Jesus’ ministry on earth, there are many examples when he met with people at the table. He cared deeply about nourishing well and savoring the food God gave us. Food was not simply functional for Jesus. He used it as an entry point for ministry, for celebration, and as a metaphor for life.
In John 21, Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection by the Sea of Galilee. Simon Peter, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee and two other disciples were fishing together. Jesus stood on the shore and called to them.
“Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some [fish].”
Although these men were the seasoned fishermen, they heeded Jesus advice and hauled in a huge number of fish that day. One hundred and fifty-three of them to be exact!
Jesus proceeded to invite the disciples to breakfast. He took time to slow down, to serve them bread and fish, to let them enjoy what they had worked so hard for. Like a loving grandma, He nourished their bodies and then engaged them in deeper conversation.
He encouraged them, “Feed my sheep” (John 21: 15).
A few moments later he says, “Take care of my sheep.” (John 21:16).
Jesus seems to be telling them about tending to His sheep, His people. He’s calling out Peter and the others to feed, care for, tend to, and protect His people. He’s calling them again to be shepherds of His flock – to take care of the physical and spiritual needs before them.
Just as Jesus washed their feet, broke bread and served wine to the disciples before his death (John 13), now He’s reminding them after his resurrection of the work of hospitality. He calls them to feed and serve. He’s restoring his commission to them.
We also have the opportunity to extend hospitality in the kitchen and at the table. Whether it’s inviting children to the table to roll lumpia or serving up steaming plates of ravioli with meatballs to neighbors, we can be vessels to help others “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
**This article was originally published at The Art of Taleh.
*Photo by Alexandra Tran on Unsplash.
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