The meaning of one’s life can be found in the stuff we accumulate. You get a cultural impression when first entering someone’s home. The Beautiful Wife wants to see fresh flowers, pictures of loved ones, signs of caring. I prefer a library of well-worn books. But my big interest is the kitchen. Do they eat real food? Cuisine reflects culture; it’s a reference for the authenticity and meaning of our lives.
The USDA monitors our food supply. The most recent data says we consume nearly a ton of food annually. Your gut processes all that, whether toxic or nutritious, and the effects accumulate. The convenience of factory foods seduced America in the last century. Perhaps it was the rising toll of chronic disease, but people are turning back to home cooking. You see them in our Saturday farmers market and the produce section of our grocery stores. I confess to inspecting people’s carts for healthfulness when in stores.
The BW’s favorite memories are of the family gathered around the dinner table, especially when we paused to read aloud for our self-improvement. The children still remember “Miss Manner’s Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.” This Sunday we’ll gather again for dinner, joined now by grandkids. Our assignment is to bring dinner rolls; “home-made” was specified.
My mom, in her 99thyear, still cooks. Some years ago, she noted with wonder that her friends had all stopped cooking. They ate out, got take-out, ate fast food, or popped a frozen entrée in the microwave. Then, one by one, they passed away. I’ve wondered if Mom’s longevity isn’t linked to her home cooking.
Is it worth the effort to cook for just one or two? When I stopped working for pay, I started learning to cook. There’s a lot to know; I’ve accumulated a library of over 100 books. It’s fun to take old recipes and make them healthier. (Google “Skip’s Homemade Applesauce,” or request my extra-healthy breakfast recipe, at the email below.) The noted book editor Judith Jones inspired me with her book, “The Pleasure of Cooking for One.” She wrote it after the death of her cooking-partner husband. It’s full of tips about cooking and food culture from the woman who discovered Julia Child and James Beard. Jones is also the editor who pulled a manuscript out of the reject pile that became the English edition of Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl.” Jones had a great editing career, but she thought cooking to be “one of the great satisfactions of life.”
I did a search for the remarkable Judith Jones to catch up. I was saddened to find a New York Times obituary. She passed last summer in her 94thyear. It was a good life, blessed by cooking, rich with meaning. I was left with this thought: When you pass through your kitchen, give the cook a big hug of thanks for all that life-saving work. She, or he, won’t always be there.
Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]
Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):
Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.
Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.
Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.
First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.
ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.
Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.
Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.
Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.
United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.
Salt Chrch, 8681 N. Coast Hwy, 10:00 a.m.
St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.
St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8 & 10:30 a.m.
Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.