Going Home, Part III, Food

Food is very important to my family. 

Because we had three newcomers (my son-in-law and two grands) to initiate into the food fold during our recent trip to Rhode Island, we planned our itinerary around unique local delicacies.

Portuguese sweet bread (masa sovada) from Cornerstone Bakery awaited us at the homestead. Buttered to the edges and toasted under the broiler, it is manna with a Portuguese twist. 

“How can this taste so good?” my son-in-law wondered aloud. Eggs, butter, and a pound of sugar might have something to do with it, Son. 

The thought of malasadas, fluffy circles of fried dough coated with sugar, lured me from my bed early Sunday morning. Now that the first generation of Portuguese immigrant women has passed on, few are willing to go through the process of mixing the dough, letting it rise twice, then forming it into flat rounds ready to fry. Corner bakeries have taken their place, but only on Sunday mornings. 
Photo credit: Cassandra at

“Once they’re gone, they’re gone,” the baker said when I called to inquire, “so you’d better get here early.” 

The memory of watching my grandmother drop perfectly formed ovals into a steaming pan of oil, then pass them to me for sugaring propelled me out of the house early that Sunday morning. A block from the bakery, the smell of golden deliciousness drew me in like the siren’s song. I paused, inhaled deeply, and held my breath, eyes closed in delight. Gloriously content to stand and savor, I stood there until an angry growl from my empty stomach propelled me the rest of the way to the bakery. 

“The only advertisement you need is that smell,” I said to the dark-eyed girl behind the counter. She smiled, then blinked twice when I placed my order. 

“Twelve?” she repeated, certain she’d heard wrong. 

“Twelve,” I said. “It’s been a long time.” 

Del’s frozen lemonade, Maple Walnut ice cream, and the Newport Creamery’s legendary Awful Awful (a milkshake so named because it’s “Awful Big and Awful Good,”) guided the week's itinerary. 

My mom and her cousin shared a New England Clam Boil, fishing out little neck clams and dunking them into melted butter. My daughter bravely swallowed a bite of the rubbery shellfish. We passed a basket of Quito’s clam cakes around the table, and the coffee lovers among us licked over-filled cones of Rhode Island Lighthouse Coffee ice cream. Long walks around the bay helped counteract our dietary indescretions. 

For me, the greatest joy came not from eating the delicacies I’ve loved since childhood, but from sharing them. The ritual of food is risky. Would I have loved my new son-in-law even if he turned up his nose at my favorite ice cream? Absolutely. Did I love him more as we shared a grin and a nod over cones piled high with sweet deliciousness? You bet. 

One of my favorite snapshot is this one of my granddaughter. Smiling broadly, she holds a malasada in one hand and a piece of sweet bread in the other. That’s my girl. You may not look Portuguese, little one, but you are. 

God could have created us without taste buds. Without taste, eating would be utilitarian—a necessary obligation to keep us alive. Instead, he created us with the ability to taste, and savor, and delight. 

Then, to make it even sweeter, he placed us in families. Together we can share not only the necessary parts of cooking and eating, but also the relational parts. Around the table, against the backdrop of good food, we laugh, and talk, and share. We tempt each other with delicacies, squabble over who gets the last bite of something good, and compare likes and dislikes. Food is the magic elixir that soothes grumpy toddlers and hard working men. 

Sometimes, opportunities to gather around the table with distant family and close kin make me a little homesick for heaven. One day, we’ll gather at a feast that will put our simple meals to shame (Rev. 19). Family members from generations gone by will take their places around the table, we’ll join hands, and our Father will pronounce the blessing. 

“For the loved ones gathered here and for the food we are about to receive, we are grateful.” 

I’m looking forward to that celebration. I suspect you are, too. In the meantime, may we enjoy many happy meals around our family tables. 

Would you like to chime in? What’s your family’s favorite food? Do you have a special traditional meal that you’ve shared from one generation to another? Leave a comment below and share your story. If you’re reading by email, click here to visit Hungry for God online, scroll to the bottom of the post, and leave a comment there. 

If you missed the earlier blog posts in the Going Home series, click HERE to read “There’s Something Magical about Going Home,” or click HERE for “Going Home, Part II – Family.”

And if you'd like a recipe for Malasadas, Portuguese doughnuts, click here to visit Cassandra at FrillyFabulous.

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  1. Sounds like a very special trip Home!
    : )

  2. Many of your memories are mine. Growing up with grandparents in East Providence with Portuguese in our blood too, the sweet bread is still one of my faves. We had clam boils every summer in my grandparents back yard and dipped in drawn butter? Oh the memories. Blaked clams and clam cakes! Yes. My grandmother did those in the fry daddy when our lips had turned blue from the pool. She'd come back with a oil-stained brown grocery bag full of hush puppies and fried clams. I've since learned of the hot wieners and tried them on my last visit. And I've heard of Dell's lemonade, but it's not part of my thing. But I do seem to vaguely remember maple walnut ice cream. I didn't realize Rhode Island was such a foody place, but I guess it was. Is. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

  3. There is something so special about food; it really does seem to unite us. It's fun to read about your experiences going home. It sounds like it was an amazing time!