Monday, December 1, 2008

Aunt Sally Good Food

My precious niece, Alexandra, is a guru, she just doesn’t know it. Like the fabled wise men, she can sum up timeless truths in a handful of words. She’s keenly observant: watching carefully the world around her, summarizing its parts.

When she was learning to speak, her name for me was Aunt Sally Good Food. The fact I was force feeding her homemade cinnamon rolls and pastry swans may have had something to do with earning the title. I didn’t actually force her, but who can resist cinnamon rolls fresh from the oven? A wicked temptress am I.

The name stuck. There’s something stunningly truthful about the title.

Aunts and uncles give nieces and nephews a unique perspective on the world. Not having the burden of discipline, we can be more adventurous in our influence over our nieces and nephews. So what if we stuff them silly with sugary treats? We won’t have to endure the giddy sugar rush sure to follow. Just hype them up on candy and send them home to mom and dad. That’ll get brother/sister for stealing our boyfriend/sweater/music in eighth grade.

Music and food are my two passions. Both are universal languages. Both can bring people together. At table or at a jam session we all jive together.

I see the world through a culinary lens. Food is history on a plate. It tells a story. It tells the story of spice routes, religious laws, environment, heredity.

Through this lens, I show my view of the world to Alexandra.

When she came to visit last Easter, we shopped at a Latin market. For the first time, she tried hibiscus, plantains and tamarind. She learned something of Mexican culture. She learned she loved smashing plantains. I learned she likes Sprite.

When I dig out some of mother’s old recipes, Alexandra learns a little bit about her grandmother who loved her dearly; passed too soon.

So there it is; Alexandra’s definition of me. “Aunt.” One who must uphold the time honored avuncular duties: to be a good example and a bad influence. “Sally.” Close to “silly,” but not close enough. “Good Food.” If food brings people together, it’s all good. An adventurous, homey, fun and funny lady who likes to cook and bring people together. Yep. That’s me.