Saturday, January 12, 2013

Eating my way to home

If you read my other blog then you already know I am relocating from Boston to Kansas City. It's a big move, one undertaken for all the right reasons but still scary. A move like this opens up all kinds of questions: Will I find friends? Will I find community? Will I find anything to eat?

The first two questions will take more time to answer themselves (though I am quite hopeful) but the third, well, Kansas City is clearly a food town and I'm eating a space out for myself. If you follow me on foursquare then you know this already. If you don't, then please be patient. I don't want to recount every meal I've had in the last few days; I hope to revive this blog to include more of my eating adventures but, for now I want to think about what it means to be home, and to eat in a new home.

When we decided to move to KC, one of my first questions was Is there good food there, beyond BBQ? What I really meant was Will I be able to find comfort? Food carries such emotional weight, such symbolic meaning and we so rarely think about it explicitly. My relationship with food is complex - all of our relationships with food are complex, carrying history of family, community, health and illness - and one I need to know I can maintain and nurture, no matter where I live. Food helps me define home.

I began to think about what constitutes a home beyond a building in a town. Friends. Community. Food. I had a fair bit of control over friends and community, my actions would create those, but I didn't know if KC had good dumplings or a teahouse or pho or...what? What else constituted comfort when I thought about food?

So I began a list. Cooking is comfort. Good meals shared are comfort. Specific foods are comfort, some bought and others made. Access to good ingredients without spending a fortune is comfort.

And I am comforted. I found a house with a good kitchen, one that welcomes cooking. It's a few blocks from two Vietnamese restaurants and an Asian fusion place that makes wonderful wonton soup (and a great bookstore across the street). In the last few days I've had superb hummus, mind-blowing bbq, great soup and more. And there are farmer's markets here, throughout the winter. The grocery stores are cheaper and stocked with most of the ingredients I know, plus quite a few new to me. All of this together helps me feel at home, with my familiar tools at hand and mouth but enough novelty to encourage adventure.

As I write this I'm sipping excellent green tea in a teahouse. My stomach is full. I am comforted. My intricate relationship with food, comfort and exploration, moderation and plenty, will be maintained.  I can consider where I will put spices in my new kitchen. Where the fruit will wait, inviting us to eat it. What I will first cook.

There are adventures to come, but my core needs - friends, community and food - are being met. From this base I can ignore the lines, step beyond my comfort zone, and explore this new world. I am coming to feel at home, by mouth, by hand, by foot and eye. Yes, there are other things that will help (a gym, a library card, friends....) but I have begun to make a space for myself and, apparently, that space is delicious.

Tell me - what makes you feel at home? How do you define comfort? And what would you seek out, if you were to move 1500 miles away?

(c) 2013 Laura S. Packer

3 comments:

Jo said...

Easy! If I were to move 1500 miles away, I'd seek out you and Kevin!
Jo

Anne Crockett said...

You make me think about moving in a whole new way, and you make it sound enticing for one who has no desire to leave her present location! I am currently redefining what food means to me as I delete foods from my diet which are generally associated with comfort: wheat, dairy, and other grains. I need to find ways to make veggies and fruits into comfort food that rivals mac & cheese or pound cake!

Laura said...

Jo - you are always welcome at our table. Always.

Anne - veggie stew. With chickpeas. I can send a rough recipe if you like.