US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Bake this in remembrance of me

Every time I bake cookies, I am reminded not only of my grandma, but of her love, the family she created, and the person she helped me to become.

By Emily Sanna | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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I learned to bake from my grandmother; every summer I would visit her house, and we would bake cookies, birthday cakes, and chocolate pudding pies. But my grandma passed away a few years ago, and even before that I hadn’t made cookies with her in a long time. And while my mom and I baked together while I was a teenager, it was more likely to be something quick and out of a mix when I needed cookies to bring to school or for someone’s birthday. But one day, during my first year of college, I received a package from my mom. Inside was a tin of the molasses cookies I spent so many years making at my grandma's side.

As a first-year college student, I would have been glad to get any kind of cookies or care package. But this was more than that. These cookies reminded me of my grandma. Of spending time with her and learning from her. Of knowing that I was totally and unconditionally loved.

Even today, when I am an adult with a fully-functioning kitchen who is perfectly capable of making her own cookies, every once in a while I’ll get a package from my mom with molasses crinkles in them. They don’t come at any specific time or for any specific reason, they just arrive unexpectedly, letting me know that my mom was thinking of me.

Food isn’t always simply about bodily nourishment. Preparing food is often an act of love—a love that is a means to fellowship and a way of expressing care for others. Cooking (or baking) connects us with the people we gather together to share a meal with. It connects us with the earth, reminding us that we are dependent on God’s creation for sustenance. And it connects us with God, allowing us to show a tiny sliver of the same love and compassion for others as Christ showed for us.

Every Sunday, we gather together to share our faith through a meal of bread and wine. Jesus wasn’t just born to die on the cross; he came to feed us, care for us, and remind us of God’s love for all of creation. With the Eucharist, then, we remember Christ’s ministry and his sacrifice that came shortly thereafter. We offer thanks for God’s sacrifice in sending his son to die on the cross. And we also believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist. When we take communion it is a remembrance, a gift from God, and a sacrament of God’s grace all rolled into one.

Remembrance, gift, and sacrament. When I think of the Eucharist in this way, my memory of baking cookies with my grandma takes on a new significance. Baking might not be a sacrament, but it too can bring us closer to God. Every time I bake molasses cookies for someone else, or any time I taste the distinctive flavor, I am reminded not only of my grandma, but of her love, the family she created, and the person she helped me to become. I am thankful for the chance to have a relationship with this woman who taught me so much—not just about baking, but about the natural world, family, and faith. The cookies might not exactly be eucharistic, but they too remind me of God’s presence here among us, embuing them with a different kind of sacramental meaning.

Today, my grandma’s old tin measuring cups are sitting in my kitchen. And I bought a flour sifter at an antique store that looks just like the one we used to use together. Someday I will pass on the molasses cookies to my own children: using the same measuring cups, helping them put on an apron that is much too big for them, greasing the baking sheets with an old butter wrapper, and showing them how to roll the balls in sugar. I’ll tell them what the cookies mean to me and what, one day, they will mean to them.

Image: @John Rodriguez

Thursday, March 3, 2016