It’s About More Than Just the Food

I do not like to drive.  I do not like crowds.  I particularly don’t like driving in a crowded place.  So a few weeks ago, when I had the brilliant idea to go to the opening of our Whole Foods grocery store here in Virginia Beach, I have to plead temporary insanity. I arrived at the store thirty minutes before it was scheduled to open, and the parking lot was already nearly full. I managed to pull into one of the only remaining parking slots and waited with a couple hundred others for the doors to open. When they did, it was so crowded that I could only move inch by inch around the inside perimeter, never making it down any of the aisles. It didn’t matter. I was in seventh heaven imagining what meals I was going to be able to put together with all the exciting choices Whole Foods has to offer.

I made the Virginian-Pilot, our newspaper!

Many people will say they eat to live. Maybe they even mean it, and it certainly is a healthy way to think about food. But I grew up in a family that lived to eat. Fortunately, and miraculously, none of us ever had a serious weight problem. My mother’s mother was a wonderful country cook. She made the best fried chicken I’ve ever had and served it with a mess of green beans the likes of which I’ve never been able to quite duplicate. She was one of the cooks in the employees’ cafeteria at Rikes, a large department store, now long gone, in Dayton, Ohio. When we would visit her in the summer, she would make a huge breakfast of bacon or country ham, eggs, potatoes, mile-high buttermilk biscuits and my grandfather’s beefsteak tomatoes. By the time we finally had the breakfast dishes washed, she was already starting on lunch preparations, and when lunch had been cleaned up, dinner was simmering on the stove.

My mother was also an excellent cook and could duplicate my grandmother’s dishes, including her pies and her fudge. But Mother kicked it up a notch with her signature dish of lobster Newberg. I guess I inherited my love of cooking and planning meals. In fact, many years ago, before I went into teaching, I was one of the cooks at a tea room in San Antonio. I still remember how to make many of their wonderful soups, quiches, and fabulous chicken salad.

Life has changed a lot for me since I retired and we left Texas. I have a much smaller kitchen, no children living close by, and far fewer friends. I don’t entertain much, and I miss hosting the holidays like I used to when it was common for us to have twenty-five over for Christmas dinner. Now I go to Daughter’s house for Thanksgiving and sons’ apartments for Christmas. I leave the planning to them now, as it should be. After all, eventually my mother had to hand over the cooking duties to me when I set up a home of my own and she and dad became the visitors. I never thought about her missing the cooking and the planning until recently, now that I am in her place.

But when I go to the library, more times than not, I come home with a stack of cookbooks I peruse, though I may not make a single recipe from them. And I will brave the crowds at a Whole Foods opening, knowing in my heart of hearts that someone else will be in charge of the menu at our next family gathering. That’s okay with me, because what it’s always been about, even so much more than the food, is just being together, sharing the food with each other, telling stories and catching up with each other’s lives.

That’s why last week, our Thanksgiving holiday with my daughter and her family in Michigan couldn’t have been more perfect. She had most of the meal catered so we could spend less time in the kitchen and more time snuggling on the couch during our Harry Potter movie marathon. Three generations, packed shoulder to shoulder for eight Harry Potter movies in six days. And yes, we ate our way through them with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and bowl after bowl of popcorn.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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30 Responses to It’s About More Than Just the Food

  1. Margie says:

    We found a Whole Foods Market on our last Snowbird Visit to Arizona. The store posts stories about their local producers – makes you understand why you are paying a bit extra to get real food.

  2. Sounds wonderful. Did you like Whole Foods? My family calls it whole paycheck, but we love it anyhow… DAF

    • Coming East says:

      Yes, I love our Whole Foods, DAF. We shopped there all the time in San Antonio. In fact, we shopped at their natural food store. In Austin before they became Whole Foods.

  3. pattisj says:

    It sounds like you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. 🙂

  4. Al says:

    I just got around to reading this, Susan. If you need anyone to vouch for the authenticity of this photo (i.e. – not photoshopped) I will be glad to say I saw the original and it is you!

  5. E.C. says:

    Norman Rockwell comes to mind when reading this post and seeing your photo. Wonderful post. 🙂

  6. Amy says:

    It’s open, wow! You still have to come back to San Antonio for the Central Market though…

  7. Love this, Susan! …And my heart was with y’all in Michigan…sounds perfect and cozy watching that marathon!
    (Would you consider ever sharing that fudge recipe?:)

    • Coming East says:

      LOL, Sally! I said my mother could make fantastic fudge. My best friend, Linda, and I tried to duplicate her recipe when we were teenagers. The first time we made it, it never set, so we had to put it in the freezer. The second time, it was hard as a rock. The secret to perfect fudge died with my mother. But, oh…that penuche fudge was a little piece of heaven.

      • Linda says:

        We made those recipes more then twice, never really too sad that we had to eat the liquid fudge with spoons. Of course, I also remember the many times we ate raw chocolate chip cookie dough……even the trans-fat laden Toll House refrigerated tubes of dough! I’m not sure we ever needed milk to wash down the sugary, buttery, chocolatey goodness of those confections!

      • Coming East says:

        Yes, we ate all that terrible stuff, and we’re still in pretty good shape. Maybe we’re good because of it, not in spite of it.

  8. dorannrule says:

    Of course you have touched my heart with this post Susan. We are similar in so many ways. I’m not for crowds either, but I would love it if a Whole Foods moved here. And life has changed since we retired to the Shenandoah Valley. It changed slowly over the years until now our family are all scattered across the country and holiday fetes are definitely different. .

    • Coming East says:

      If you are like me, Dor, you miss being the mama in charge of the holiday feasts. It was always such a pleasure to cook for my family because they appreciated it so much. At least my sweet hubby still appreciates that I like to cook nice meals for him still.

  9. Such a cozy weekend! As it should be. What a thoughtful idea of your daughter to order catered dishes. It’s still more economical than going out.
    My first encounter with this type of grocery store was Central Market in SA. As colleagues and I gathered for our annual task at hand on the Trinity U campus, we also, ventured out into the neighborhoods after 5:00 PM to check out the grocery stores. Up Stadium and then a right on ? for about a mile we found CM on the left. Since I had driven in from Houston, I made several runs to the market for those who were dying for their fresh foods. Me? I thought they were a little nuts because TU cafeteria food cannot be matched! 🙂 and a wink

    • Coming East says:

      Georgette, my husband was the chief of police and the security and safety director at Trinity for fifteen years. He started the department from scratch in 1980. We lived on campus for the first two and a half years, in Oakmont, down the street from President Calgard. Those were wonderful years. I actually like Central Market better than Whole Foods. Isn’t it a gorgeous store? We frequented the one in Austin before one opened in San Antonio. Your comment brings back so many wonderful memories. I will always miss San Antonio and Austin.

  10. Sounds like a heavenly Thanksgiving!!

  11. I never knew, or I forgot, you have Michigan connections. I’m pretty sure I could not make it through a Harry Potter marathon. Still, I asked my oldest grand daughter if she’d be interested in a Twilight marathon. (I saw one because of an adult’s review.) Never read even one of the books. That said, I’m one of the few who dislikes the Harry Potter books.

    • Coming East says:

      My daughter, granddaughter, and a cousin went to see the final Twilight last week, Adela. We’ve all read the books, though. They aren’t particularly well written, but the story is fun. Harry Potter, on the other hand, is extremely well written, and I have read all the books. How do you feel about Lord of the Rings?

  12. This post hit home with me. We have had an empty nest since 2004 and I have just finally adjusted to cooking for 2. It took me almost 8 years! LOL I subscribe to several cooking magazines and have quite a collection of recipes, but the ones from my mother and grandmothers are always the favorites! My mother in law gave me a plaque when we first were married that said, Eat to Live, Don’t Live to Eat! Love it.

  13. Dianna says:

    Congrats on making the paper: can I have your autograph?? 🙂
    Sounds like your Thanksgiving was perfect – not so much kitchen time, and more together time!

  14. I’m very impressed that you found yourself in that crowd, you must be a master at “Where’s Waldo.” You’ll LOVE Whole Foods once the novelty simmers down. One thing about your grandmothers cooking….it was REAL food.
    I must say, your Thanksgiving sounded just perfect.

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