Love Bites: Food as a love language

This month's columnist explores how her relationship with her mother is articulated through food

Article by Josie Gaitens | 07 Feb 2020
  • Food News August

I am visiting home and my mother and I are not speaking. This is not unusual. For years our relationship has been liberally peppered with intense emotional disruptions. But I know things are changing for the better when she calls me from town. I text my worried friends:

“Things are okay now.”

“Good! What happened? Did she apologise?”

“Kind of. She bought me a steak.”

It’s hard to explain to those who haven’t experienced food as a love language. To some people, eating is no different from breathing. My mother would rather not eat than eat to survive. Food is first and foremost a joy, a symbol of affection for one’s self or others. 

My mother feeds people and her food means things. Come, share this meal. I want for you to be nourished. Our fridge is always packed, our table groaning. She remembers every meal she’s eaten in a restaurant. When she misses me she messages me about things we will eat together. My 20th birthday card from her reads, “love you, can’t wait to eat a BIG STEAK with you!”

Of all the times my mother has loved me with food, one instance from when I was sixteen stands out. A friend’s father had just died. My childhood best friend and I sat in my kitchen, silent with grief, with my mother between us, breaking up chocolate and placing it in our mouths while we cried. Like baby birds she fed us, piece after piece. Life is tragic and awful in so many ways, but in that desperate moment she gave us all the sweetness she could find.