They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This picture speaks at least that many.
You see, there is much more going on here than meatloaf in a pan.
As I ponder on what to make for dinner, ideas rotate through my mind. And then….meatloaf presents itself. It’s not particularly recognized as anything fancy. Actually, it represents comfort food; we find a taste of the familiar in the midst of unpredictable change. To my family, meatloaf connects us to the woman who was known to provide comfort through her food and her actions: my husband’s grandmother.
“Granny” made the best one. In fact, one of the best testaments to her meatloaf comes through the story of it being sold at an auction for charity at a bar. (Someone bid $20 for it!)
Every time, we consumed it at our family gatherings at her home, we were reminded that it was literally shaped by love. Her hands dug into the meat mixture; her fingers pinching the individual ingredients until they were no longer separated. The process mimicked her approach to those who graced her presence.
She dug her hands into their lives. Sometimes through the gift of food. Other times, through time or financial resources. Always through hugs. Occasionally, her dining room table (and her home) became an ecumenical mix of family and visitors. Each of us became beneficiaries of intentional shaping through her hands. All of us coming to the table as individual ingredients but finding the substance which bound us together: Granny’s love.
Many of our life shaping memories are rooted in the moments at her home. Christmas ones are some of them. Trekking to her home on Christmas afternoon wasn’t always high on the list of my kids who would have preferred to stay in their pj’s playing with new gifts. And Granny would have understood. But, we also knew that our opportunities to share life with her were becoming limited.
On Easter, she would crawl on her hands and knees around her home to hide eggs in the tiniest of spaces. Even at age 95. The plastic eggs held a small amount of coins. To a child, those are gems! Five years ago, we celebrated our last days with her. Holidays, in particular, remind you of the ways your life has been shaped by others.
So, on this Christmas, as I had add all the ingredients in the bowl, her words silently speak to me: “You have to get your hands messy.” This is not my favorite part. I have traditionally avoided physical contact resulting in foreign substances covering my body. Perhaps, it comes with my anxiety or just a personal quirk. Regardless, I am aware that it is part of the process of creating: food, art, relationships. It comes with the territory of being God’s image bearer.
Reluctantly, I do; allowing her words to come to life in my hands. Truthfully, it never turns out quite like her meatloaf. Her recipe never matched how she made it each time anyway. She said that she never really followed the recipe, she just created it from her mind.
I think the results are different because hers reflected “granny” and no one can recreate that. I bake it in her pan; the one which holds her fingerprints. The same round warped pan that found us hovering around it in her small kitchen as she cooked and talked.
As we savor the meatloaf, we remember the ways her hands shaped things: both meatloaf and people. Sharing food defined much of how Granny expressed her love for others. Souls and bodies found nourishment through her hands.
As we eat it, we are reminded of how Granny shaped our lives. And it reminds us that loving others means getting our hands messy.
Meatloaf is family tradition for us, too! I used to think it simple and then I started making it. It was never as good as my mom’s and I know now how much love she put into it!