Life Advice



Person to Person: Why food can enhance close relationships

Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen, Tribune News Service on

Published in Helping Yourself

Many of us remember our grandmother’s home cooking. Or we can recall great dishes prepared by an aunt or a local chef. We feel warm and fuzzy just thinking about those experiences.

Food creates good memories, opportunities to bond in social groups and a nice way to show we care about other people.

“As a child, my dad took us to his great-aunt’s house on Sundays,” says a third-grade teacher we’ll call Helen. “My entire family ate buffet style at this aunt’s house for years. We’d each bring a dish.”

Helen says this family time created a feeling nothing else ever did. “My parents divorced when I was 12, but the family gatherings kept me feeling strong and connected.”

It’s true that people who can cook well should never be lonely. It’s not hard to find friends if you’re just serving dessert and coffee at your apartment. A pan of brownies can engage a small gathering of people.

These tips can facilitate social bonding as well:

— During the summer months, invite the neighbors for a backyard picnic. During these times of social distancing, it’s still possible to have conversation and light snacks. All of us need one or two close neighbors to call on in case of an emergency. Eating together strengthens the bonds we have.

— Order some food delivered for your older relatives. Taking time to send over a great pasta meal to grandparents, aunts and uncles, or your in-laws will help keep you connected.


— Keep extended family connected by meeting at a great restaurant. Establishments with outdoor seating and rules for social distancing are good options. You might also invite some family friends.

“My cousin lives alone and does accounting work from home,” says a friend of ours we’ll call Joyce. “I sometimes prepare his favorite homemade soup and take it by his house. At other times, I’ll take a few donuts that he especially loves from the local bakery. I want him to feel someone is nurturing him, because he broke up with his girlfriend a few months ago.”

Of course, it’s the thought of caring about someone that counts. By connecting food to your attention for that person, you’re speaking volumes about wanting to lift their spirits. If you live several miles from someone, you can still have a birthday dinner delivered. Or, you can order them a special dessert from a gourmet shop.

“I was really down during this pandemic,” says a television journalist who works from home in a large city. We’ll call her Patty.

“I was feeling all alone and very depressed,” she explains. “But one morning, magic happened. My niece had made little cookies called Mexican Wedding Cakes and mailed a box to me. I was so touched, I cried! She had invested time, a little bit of money, and lots of love. But, she also had to drive to the post office, stand in line, and pay postage to mail the cookies. So you see, this kind of effort is huge!”

If you have more time than money, don’t forget that sending your favorite uncle a loaf of homemade bread or your best friend a nice casserole means you’ll likely spend less than $10. And, remember that every person in the world appreciates good food.

“Thinking of my niece’s cookies makes me smile every time I feel lonely,” says Patty. “It gave me the idea to reach out to a few people with some nice food items as a gift.”

©2021 Tribune Content Agency, LLC



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