What’s Your Family Bonding Secret?

Source: Flickr - CC SuziJane
Christmas Dinner at Granny's 1959 - CC SuziJane

Three of the  five people responding said food to this man-on-the-street interview question. One smiling round-faced woman said “baking.” I imagine her kitchen filled with the smell of freshly-baked cookies.

My reaction was mixed.

First I thought: “Really? With all the experiences in this world we can share, food trumps all?”

Then I thought: “Of course! What else?” Everybody has to eat. It might as well be with the people you love. Even if sometimes that love is a little maddening. 

My friend lost a bunch of weight and has been very successful at keeping it off. The secret to her success is she watches how much she eats all the time and she gave up rice. She eats potatoes and pasta, but not rice. At family gatherings she endures her aunties asking her why she’s always dieting. She responds in an exasperated tone “I’m not on a diet. I just keep it reasonable.” Of course, the next question from the aunties is how come she doesn’t have a boyfriend, now that she stays so skinny.

I have to say I admire my friend’s ability to keep on course, especially being able to give up rice. Rice is hard to avoid here in Hawaii.

I can imagine food as part of nearly every family gathering I’ve ever been to, with or without a serving of the emotional minefield on the side.

It’s tradition: there are the dishes that are always made because it’s someone’s favorite or “it just wouldn’t be the same without it.” Doesn’t matter if anyone really likes it. Or wants it. It’s there.

It’s a distraction: food can make for (safe) small talk. “This tastes so good” is a lot easier to say than “I’m sorry your dad is back in the hospital.” Or “If he took better care of himself maybe he wouldn’t be back there.”

It’s comforting: something warm, something smooth, something sweet. It feels so nice going down. It’s stopping at your favorite burger joint first when arriving in your hometown.

But for a diabetic some foods can make you sick. Not in 20 years when the extra cholesterol clogs your arteries and you have a heart attack. But in the next hour when your blood sugar jumps sky high and makes you feel anxious or shaky or like you’re about to pass out.

That’s why we have to watch what and how much we eat all the time. Giving up rice is optional.