You know those recipes that are truly a labor of love? The ones that take a lot of time and stuff and soul and spoons to prepare?
For me, that’s my great-grandmother’s chicken and dumplin’s. (No, there ain’t no ‘g’ in ‘dumplin’s’.)
I make them when I’m sad. I make them when I’m celebrating. I make them when somebody needs a big belly full of ‘it’s gonna be okay’.
Recently, both of my grandfathers were feeling a little less than tip-top. So I boiled a chicken and pulled out the Crisco and got to work. My mom and I used to joke that my best dumplin’s were my ‘angry’ dumplin’s – because it takes some serious rolling pin action to get them as thin as Bertice used to make them.
(“Thinner!” she would shout, as she taught us to roll the dough.)
This time I wasn’t angry – just determined to make something special and real for two real special men in my life.
When all was said and done, I had a face full of flour and a kitchen to match, and a steaming pot of comfort on my stovetop.
I packaged half for Papa and half for PawPaw, and served the rest to my family on a school night, helping myself to three helpings.
Food is my love language.
Not long after our third child was born, my husband and I learned about love languages. Somewhere between the stresses of welcoming a newborn and the stresses of an airline schedule, we needed to find better ways to communicate amid the chaos.
We sought guidance, and were asked when was the last time we felt truly loved.
I said I felt most loved in moments of lightness, like when Jared dances the hula in the driveway as we blast Moana on the way to school.
He said he feels most loved when I don’t make any plans, leaving stretches of time for him to spend with our family, doing whatever we please.
Because life raising little children is loud and busy and can push you to the brink, I cherish levity and laughter. Because he spends time away from us for work, he treasures an uncluttered calendar.
We were also encouraged to implement the “Moana dance” into arguments, as a physical olive branch meant to stop us from saying anything we didn’t mean – which would be pretty funny if we would actually use it.
We learned that love languages apply to our children, too, and that each of them probably receives love differently. Some require extra hugs, while others need verbal affirmation to feel confident and strong.
I don’t know how well we’ve done giving and receiving love since we learned these things.
But I do know I’m trying, and I hope my family can feel it … one hug, one hour, and one heaping bowl of dumplin’s at a time.