Professor Jesse Miller
English 110 H4
27 March 2017
Taste of Friendship
The five senses are powerful pathways connecting one’s memories and emotions. Each unique flavor, consistency, or scent is intertwined with memories of someone or something, of some event or some period in time. To each individual there is something different which, for them, holds meaning and often a memory. However, for all people, across every different society, there is food. Although food is necessary in order to sustain life and to provide energy to one’s cells in order to meet the bodies needs for growth, development and function, for many, food holds more meaning. Each dish, unique to an individual, family or culture, serves a different purpose in connecting people, in creating memories and in remembering old ones. There is a recurring pattern of emotion and sentiment coinciding with certain dishes in Deanna Phipps’s essay, “Dish of Life,” where she analyzes how her family’s chocolate chip pancake breakfasts have grown to serve a greater purpose, and in Nicholas Fisher’s “A Meaty Meal” in which he explores the role of familial connections and steak and salad. Both essays explore how certain foods have the ability to become more than food and how each dish can bring about feelings of familiarity and comfort. The messages articulated in the aforementioned essays, mirror that of Raymond Carver in his short story, A Small Good Thing. Each essay reveals the significance of food and how different scenarios can cause certain dishes to correlate with certain memories, thus holding more meaning than simply another meal.
Throughout different cultures and across many countries, food is used as a way to bring together family and friends. The food itself is often not as important as the social interactions, the selfless bonds that are formed between loved ones. In Phipps’ essay on her favorite meal, she states how her family’s tradition of a chocolate chip pancake breakfast inadvertently established a relationship between family and food, “my passion for chocolate in the morning slowly evolved into a steadfast love for family time.” Not only does Phipps enjoy the sweet-buttery taste of chocolate pancakes but she has subconsciously made a connection between the meal and being able to spend time with her family. This relationship between certain dishes and bonding with others is also reflected in Fisher’s essay. Fisher states how his mother believes that the dish of steak tips and Caesar salad is a symbol of unity as a family and coincides with enjoying time together. Fisher’s favorite dish and his experiences with that particular meal have created an emotional link between him and his family. In both Phipps and Fisher’s essays, the bonding occurs in instances of happiness and comfort, when the food becomes an excuse for busy family’s to spend time together, to actually sit down and talk about their lives. The smell of the pancakes and the familiar taste become flavors that, to Phipps, denote home and family. This is also true for Fisher, as he relates the steak tips and Caesar salad with being able to bond with loved ones.
Sometimes, as is the case in Carver’s short story, food can create a union between people who would not otherwise bond or associate. In, A Small, Good Thing, a mother and father lose their child and grow isolated from both each other and from others. They connect only with a lonely baker who shares with them sugary baked goods in a time of darkness and grief. “Although they were tired and in anguish, they listened to what the baker had to say. They nodded when the baker began to speak of loneliness…he told them what it was like to be childless all these years” (219). The cinnamon rolls and coffee became a sort of common ground in which the three individuals could bond, and realize that they were not so different from one another as was thought before. Instead of suffering alone, the parents were able to listen to the baker’s stories. They were able to find comfort in the warm, handmade desserts, a comfort which allowed them open up and connect with another human being.
The person to person connection that can result from the sharing of a meal can build an emotional foundation from which memories and emotions can be produced. Often, as described by Phipps, “creating attachments to different foods goes beyond sensual pleasantries or primal necessities, it’s an unconscious emotional aspect established by an intangible link between a moment in time and a meal.” It is often more than the taste, or texture, however addicting, of the specific dish, but rather the emotions which those flavors harbor, which create unintentional connections with a specific food. Humans have a tendency to relate emotions to things and to certain moments. The emotions and memories that are established at a certain period of time can be brought up again when the same tastes or scents are introduced. As in A Small, Good Thing, the childless parents establish a connection with the baker and the warm baked goods shared with them. The sweetness of the rolls is juxtaposed with the bitterness and grief felt by the parents who have just lost their only son and the baker who has been lonely much of his life. The contrasting of the sweet to bitter create a union between a moment in time, a certain food and the emotions felt.
One such food which often creates a connection with a moment in time, especially for those in the western world, is birthday cake. The personalized dish made specifically for a unique individual often creates an attachment to either the cake itself or the memories that the taste conjures. In Carver’s short story, the mother of a young boy orders him a birthday cake. “She ordered chocolate, the child’s favorite…his name, Scotty, would be in green letters…” (Carver 203). The cake was ordered for the purpose of honoring the child, a symbol of his life as he grows older. Carver uses this example to illustrate the emotional connection to food and a moment in time. Memories and emotions often correlate with the senses and food is one such thing which incorporates all five. Frequently, people relate certain foods with “emotions of love and family” (Fisher). Birthday cake holds both of those as it represents one’s life, and therefore the many emotions that are included. Thus, the flavors and smells, even the textures that are associated with specific dishes create a symbol of home.
Even when foods are not directly associated with one’s family, there is often a feeling of familiarity and comfort surrounding meals which are made by hand. In Carver’s story, the mother and father cannot even bare to touch food when their son is in the hospital and when he first passes away. The food they are offered at the hospital is massed produced, made more for an energy source than for sharing or enjoying. Making food at home is too out of the way, too selfish a reason to leave their dying son. It is not until they are offered warm bread and rolls by the baker that they are able to find any comfort, any common ground (219). Like the mother and father in A Small, Good Thing, Phipps also find the difference between a meal made by hand and a factory produced meal to be significant. “Meals cooked by those you care about is inherently different from mass produced food.” Both authors relish the care that is put into meals that are made with the goal of providing comfort as well as nutrition. However, unlike in Carver’s story, Phipps finds the difference to be most significant when meal is made by family. She even goes on to say that, “A meal cooked by anyone other than family may be made with the exact same recipe, but it ultimately fails to compete with those made by the ones you love.” Phipps’s believes that the connection food has to family is very important, and even vital to the overall taste of the dish. Carver, while not explicitly stating otherwise, implies that so long as the food is made for the purpose of feeding another, whether it be family or a stranger, it can hold the same purpose as when made by a loved one.
Food is not just an energy source or a biological mean of survival. Food offers humans a way to bond with one another. It is a way for connections to be made, especially in times of grief. In both Phipps’ and Fisher’s essays, as well as in Carver’s short story, the importance of food is revealed through its ability to connect people, whether it be strangers in a time of grieving or loved ones in times of peace. The dishes have the ability to bring back memories and to create new ones through the stimulation of the senses. Food is more than nourishment, it is how families bond and how strangers become friends.
Works Cited Page
Carver, Raymond. “A Small, Good Thing.” Where I’m Calling From. Vintage, 1989, pp. 202-219.
Fisher, Nicholas. “A Meaty Meal.” http://nfisheriii.uneportfolio.org/favorite-meal/. Accessed 5
Phipps, Deanna. “Dish of Life.” http://dphipps.uneportfolio.org/favorite-meal/. Accessed 5