Rich and robust. Comforting and homey. Delicious and satisfying.
When I think of those words, I think about the tastiest, most mouthwatering soul food ever. I think about macaroni and cheese, crispy fried chicken, and big, buttery pound cake. I think about the endless servings, the heaping helpings, the genuine love that seems to be cooked into all that food. Just calling those images to mind is making me hungry!
While all of those things certainly are part of what is considered ‘soul food,’ I think the term can have an alternate definition. Maybe soul food is whatever you want it to be — maybe it’s not even food.
Maybe it’s whatever nourishes your innermost self, makes you feel happy from the inside out, or makes you feel satisfied and content. Maybe it’s whatever feels like a tight, encircling hug, or like walking into your favorite place in the world and feeling your heart bubble over. Maybe it’s just being with the people you love and care about most, and letting their energy wrap you up like a cozy blanket on a chilly night.
Over the weekend, I would say I experienced soul food in every which way, both in the traditional sense and in the abstract sense.
Able to finally see some of my favorite people for a socially-distant outdoor gathering after months of texting and checking in with each other, this weekend showed me just how far that definition of ‘soul food’ can reach. Now, here’s where I should mention that we did actually eat a version of soul food — some fried chicken tenders and luscious mac & cheese, as well as a peach pound cake made by yours truly — so yes, I did in fact have something pretty close to actual would food.
We ate well, drank well, and had a ball being together but apart out on my deck, taking a dip in the pool and tossing a football around as cracked each other up from our tipsy wine haze.
But beyond the food, the real ‘soul food’ to me was the mere experience of being around people that I love and care about — being around that ‘chosen family’ that people always talk about, the ones you encounter who feel so familiar that they end up coming along for the ride that is your life who feel like family but aren’t actually blood related. Especially after all the time we’ve spent separated, the experience was all the sweeter.
To spend an evening with people who know you, who get you, who love you, and who you feel the same way about in return is truly special. That is the true soul food. That filled me up, comforted me, nourished me, and made me feel at home in my own skin in a way that the past few months of isolation due to Covid-19 has oftentimes diluted. This was absolute fuel for my soul. This was the nourishment that I needed but didn’t even realize I was craving. This was a gift, plain and simple, and it was mesmerizing to watch people of all stages of my life — childhood through adulthood — come together, laugh, talk, and become the one unit they’ve always appeared to be in my mind.
So what matters today are good food and good friends. What matters today is making time to be together when being together lately has been a challenge in the worst way possible. What matters today is being able to recognize the people in your life that you can’t remember a time without, and being able to identify the ways in which your life has changed for the better with them around.
What matters most today is being grateful for those people, that they came into your life, changed your world, and remained part of it — and being hopeful that you’ll always stay in each other’s lives.