In the South, it’s a redemptive quality to be a good cook. “She was mean as hell,” they’ll say, “but she could cook.” They typically follow this anecdote up with a recipe this person made better than anyone. It’s never written on a recipe card or found in a cookbook, but one that was learned by watching over someone’s shoulder for a lifetime. Southern cooking is an art, not a science. There are pinches and handfuls, eyeballs and gut feelings. It sounds like a scary story, but it’s a recipe for love written by generations of people huddled in a kitchen helping each other.
It’s a way to stay connected to those people after they pass, too. In all the ways we can remember them, food is the one that satisfies every sense. The sound of whispers and laughter in the kitchen, the savory smells in the air, and, of course, the taste that takes you back.
My Grandmother was one of these mean but mighty chefs. She had a reputation with our family and everyone in town for being specific – not just about how the food tasted, but with people, too. She either liked you or not and you knew how she felt. She’d tell you point blank if she hated your food, too.
But if she loved you? She took care of you and it wasn’t just with the food she put on the table. This might not sound so remarkable to you, but you don’t know her story. She was 34 when a virus left her paralyzed from the neck down. She worked for years to regain control of her left arm and leg while running a farm, raising two small children, and cooking every night to get dinner on the table by 5:30 sharp. She did it all while living on less money for a month than most of you make in a week.
I wonder if I’d be able to mix up love like she did if I was struggling so hard to survive. But as I spend time with her daughter, my Aunt, I see that maybe I have a few of the ingredients that made up her recipe for love. A pinch of frugality. A scoop of generosity. A sprinkle of determination. A hope that kept our plates full.
We remember her every night as we sit around the table for dinner. Whether we say her name or not, her love is what ties us together. While we may start to forget the stories or meals as we age, we’ll never forget her recipe for love.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.