The Last Tangerine: Food, Friends, and Family.

There is one home-grown tangerine left from the large bag given me by a friend of my parents, from his own trees, a couple of months ago. It’s been in there so long I don’t even know if it’s edible anymore. But I can’t bring myself to open it and eat it, or throw it away if it’s no longer any good.

OK., so I have issues with the last of anything. You’d think I was born during the depression instead of the sixties. Anyway, that’s a story for another day. But the point here is that I tend to value food that people give me more than food I buy at the store.

Especially if they grew it themselves (I don’t have a garden or a green thumb) or cooked it themselves (I’m not a great cook) it means more to me. It’s something nurturing and special, and I want to keep that last bit of nourishment and pleasure, and that last reminder that someone cares for me, around as long as I can. It’s like the last container of my Mother’s home-made soup in the freezer. Nothing I buy or make myself seems as good, so I feel like I need to save it as long as I reasonably can, so I can still look forward to enjoying it, and to feeling nurtured by her, another time.

Nurture and nourish.

That seems to be today’s theme. I just couldn’t stay with the monosyllabic verb theme this time. “Eat” just doesn’t convey enough. “Food” gets closer, but it’s not a verb. And though the title, “Food, Friends, and Family, conveys the familiar and cherished idea of enjoying a meal and conversation with loved ones, I am referring especially to food given to me by others, that I savor when I’m on my own again, after our visit is over. It is a way to feel nurtured by – and connected to – others, as I savor the food they’ve given to me.

It turns out that soon after I started writing this, my parents came for another visit. They brought more tangerines, and oranges, from the same friend’s orchard, and more frozen home-made food, though not soup this time.

By that time I had already taken the plunge and peeled the last tangerine. Now it is replaced, with more freshly picked tangerines and – even better — sweet, juicy oranges.

Now I have enough to last for awhile again, and to share with friends – my own way of giving the gift of good food and caring.

And I feel more able to enjoy the soup when I’m ready, because it’s no longer the last of the home-cooked food in the freezer. I’ve also been making good use of leftovers from one of our meals out together, enjoying both not having to cook and remembering our nice visit together, which almost always involves sharing good meals. But that last slice of really good pizza is going into the freezer, for one more future meal.

I’m someone who has relatively little talent – and less patience — generally, for any of the domestic arts. But I appreciate them in others. A house made home-like; a blouse cleaned and perfectly folded; and, especially for the purposes of this post, food lovingly prepared or grown by skillful hands to nourish and nurture others.

One time I travelled to my parent’s house for a visit, and as soon as I walked in, I was greeted by the aroma of delicious food cooking, as well as the sound of a favorite piano music CD, and probably a vase of fresh-picked roses from my Dad’s garden. A true feeling of home-coming.

I suppose this idea of nourishment as nurturing can extend also to what we do for ourselves. I do many things on a daily basis to take care of myself. I walk, jog, and bounce on my re-bounder; I feed myself spiritually with daily Bible reading; I research natural medicine to manage chronic health conditions; I feed my mind with a vast array of reading material; and I practice massage and acupressure techniques to manage a perpetually tight neck and back.

I even do research on food, and try to eat a healthy diet. But the matter of cooking, and actually feeding myself, enough food, of the right kind, at the right times and frequency, is something I frequently fall a bit short on.

So I’m going to work on that. Plan meals and shopping lists ahead; cook extra so I can eat home-cooked food without spending too much time in the kitchen; build on the decent success of my recent first venture into crock-pot cooking; and try to remember to eat something substantial enough before I’ve gotten distracted by other things for longer than I should. Nurture. Nourish. We can do these things for ourselves.

But still it’s not quite the same as when it comes from someone else who showed their care by feeding us, from their kitchen or garden.

Again your call to action is simply a matter of thinking about these questions, and, if you feel moved to do so, sharing some of your answers in the comments.

  • What does food – home-cooked; home-grown; or otherwise, mean to you?
  • What else do you do to nurture yourself and others?
  • How can we transform something we view as a chore (like cooking) that takes us away from our real work, into an enjoyable and valued way of taking care of ourselves and others?
  • And for those of us who don’t excel in the domestic arts that make life better, let’s pay extra attention to showing appreciation for those who do, because it is a skill, an art, an act of love, which should be valued and not taken for granted.