This past Fall, my good friend Monica who now lives in Toronto sent me a novel she thought I would enjoy: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Amiee Bender. She was quite right, I did enjoy it.
The basic gist of the book is this: The night before she is to turn nine, Rose Edelstein’s mom bakes her a lemon-chocolate cake. Within the first bite, she realizes that she tastes not only the flavors of lemon and chocolate, but the emotions of her mother in the cake, and they are not pleasant emotions, rather they are feelings of absence, hunger, spiraling, hollow, emptiness.
The story chronicles Rose’s life as she learns to live with this curse/gift in search of love. Along the way she can taste when her mom has an affair and finally she finds love in food from a little French café, where she ends up working just to be near the woman chef who pours love into her cooking.
Since reading the book, I have thought a lot about what it might be like to taste the emotions of the person who cooked our food. Specifically what would people taste when they ate my food? Bitterness? Anger? Frustration? Sadness? Loneliness? Happiness? Love? Contentment? Joy? Pleasure?
My hope/desire/longing would be that people taste love and joy and peace in my cooking. I know that is not always the case as there are days when I do not want to be at work. And there are days when I find it tough to heat up spaghetti sauce filled with love for fifth graders.
There will be many days in my life when I do not feel like cooking, but must because it is my job. What am I to do in such a situation? Trying to conjure up “happy, feel-good” emotions is not the answer, for I am tired of pretending, repressing and faking what I am truly feeling. Maybe it is simply opening to the Holy Spirit in truth about how I feel, and asking that I might be empowered by the love of Jesus to feed the people I must feed.
After all, my desire is not that they taste my love, but His Love. That as they give thanks, and break bread, eyes would be open to see Jesus in their midst even if but for an hour or two as they dine.