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Comfort Food

By Jessie Christensen

A few weeks ago, I was standing in my kitchen on a sunny Saturday morning trying to decide whether I wanted to drive to my favorite fruit stand for some local peaches to turn into pie. Just as I had decided to wait until the next week, the doorbell rang. It was my neighbor with a large bag of fruit from his peach tree; most of them were small and a little hard, but perfect for pie. As I was working on the pie the next day, I realized that I have been baking pies for at least 25 years. When I moved into my first college apartment, I bought a pastry cutter, a rolling pin, and a glass pie dish so I could bake for my new friends. These days I don’t make pie very often, because it takes time and effort, and my small family doesn’t eat large amounts of anything–even fresh peach pie.

In fact, when I excitedly dished up the pie that evening, one of my children announced that she does not like pie or any other dessert with cooked fruit in it. I had heard this before, but hoped that we could try again. Nope–no matter how much love I put into crafting a beautiful and delicious pie, this child would rather have plain vanilla ice cream. For me, fruit pie symbolizes love, home, and multiple generations of my family who have lovingly baked desserts for their children and grandchildren. For my daughter, fruit pie is just lumpy, mushy disappointment in a bowl.

This disconnect reminded me of the student from China I taught in Spanish 101 who hated cheese. We were in a lesson about using the phrase “I like” paired with common foods–queso, pan, dulces–and she reacted rather violently to the idea of eating cheese. Later, as we were chatting in English during a break, she went on an impressive rant about how cheese and other dairy products were one of the more mystifying and disgusting aspects of life in America. She couldn’t even stand the smell of cheese–so much so that when her parents received a cheese and fruit basket as a gift from their employer they had to hide it in their garage while they figured out what to do with it. All of us Americans had a good laugh with her, asked her what some of her favorite foods were, and shared which foods (American or otherwise) we did not particularly like.

I admit, however, that I have sometimes wondered about how different my life is from hers, since I eat dairy products, including cheese, on a daily basis. So much of what we view as ‘normal’ is shaped by where we grew up and where we live, and it can be so easy to assume that the way we view the world is ‘right’ and everything else is ‘wrong’. I grew up with a mother who loved baking and I learned to bake at a young age. And yet, I served my mission in a country where baking at home is fairly rare. There are wonderful bakeries and pastry shops all over, and every region has its particular sweet and savory treats to try. With small apartment kitchens and tricky gas-powered ovens, why would you bake your own when you can buy something tasty from the shop on the corner?

For a recent Family Home Evening activity we all took a quiz about our ‘love languages’. My kids and I had a great time discussing our own ‘comfort’ things, food and otherwise. I’m not big on writing love notes or buying gifts for my kids, but I have reassured them that they will always have clean sheets and warm homemade pie. However, I may have to switch to warm brownies for my one kid who really does not think cooked fruit is a sign of love.

About Jessie Christensen

Jessie served a mission in Spain and graduated from BYU with bachelor's degrees in Spanish Translation and English, as well as a master's in Spanish Literature. She currently works full-time at a university library and nurtures her three children, one cat, and a fluctuating number of fish. She relaxes by reading, baking, canning fruit, and putting together jigsaw puzzles.

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