I saw the movie Waitress last night, and in short, it inspired me. If you’re worried this is going to be a movie review, don’t turn away just yet, it’s not. It just happens that this movie, centered around pie, motivated me to do some thinking about how food can be an outlet for so many facets of our lives.
In order for you to follow along with me, I do however need to give the obligatory summary of the movie (Warning: it may be considered a spoiler) so here goes:
Waitress is about a woman named Jenna who is depressed from her marriage to a terrible husband, as well as her lifelong loneliness. Again and again, she finds herself trapped in the abusive relationship, partly due to financial struggles. To her further dismay, she finds out she is pregnant with her husband’s child. The only outlet through which she feels comfortable sharing her emotions is by baking pies. She even names pies after her feelings while inventing them. After a series of life-changing events, she eventually finds exactly what she has been looking for in the baby she resented all along. She cuts off ties from everything in her old life and “starts fresh,” keeping only one thing the same: her love and passion for making pies.
When it comes down to it, I think cooking is an outlet for a lot of people. In terms of family, cooking can be a way to bridge generational gaps or settle differences. It can also make you feel like you belong. Cooking can evoke a sense of identity depending on with, for, or by whom you cook. And, not to stereotype, but for many women it can be very self-gratifying to be able to say they watched their mother’s or grandmother’s in the kitchen and are now carrying on their family’s food traditions. Even Jenna (from Waitress) does the same thing. Food keeps memories alive; recreating traditions time and time again from ancestors long ago.
Cooking can also be a form of expression. Like Water for Chocolate (the book and the movie) is about a woman named Tito who loves a man married to her sister but was never able to be with him physically. She expresses her love and intimate feelings for him through her cooking; feelings that he reciprocates and embraces while eating. Jenna, the woman in Waitress puts all of her emotion into her pies which explains why they are considered the most fantastic pies in the world.
It goes without saying that food is a basic need for all of us, but that is exactly why it helps us to relate to one another. Sure, food has its stratifying differences, from reputations attached to caviar as well as to chicken fried steak. But I think that when we cook, regardless of what the food is, or where it is from, we are fulfilling a hunger for something more than our own stomachs. We are fulfilling a hunger for self definition, expression, and maybe even sometimes, relationships. I think the expression “made with love” applies well here as the best meals are those that have meaning.
Food has the ability to nourish the soul, as well as the body, and I don’t think it could hurt to just realize that from time to time.