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Bill's Challenge - A Different Story Teller

Linda has a passion for writing about many topics, including food, history, travel, artists, and authors.


A Final Challenge

On Monday, February 28 our dear friend Bill Holland published the 400th and final installment of his weekly "Mailbag" series on HP. Before the goodbyes, he left us with this challenge:

"I want each of you . . . to write one more poem, or one more short story, and post it here on HP using the words 'Bill's Challenge' along with the actual title of your work."

Bill asked us to present our best, take some time with it, and show him how much each of us has grown as a writer.


The Storytellers

Before the explorers, before Guttenberg, and before the written word, there were the storytellers—men and women with a magical gift. With spoken word, they transported their listeners to foreign lands and distant galaxies. Their skill in combining words and phrases stirred the emotions—causing children to clap their hands in joy or jump with fright. They could elicit tears of laughter or cause grown men to weep.

But in the telling, there was much more than entertainment. The wisdom of the ages, the knowledge of those who had lived before was being handed down. In speaking aloud the words of the ancients, again and again, the spirit of those ancients lived on. The tales of the storytellers united new generations with the old.

There is another means of sharing the past, and it is why I write. I write of food, not as a cook, but to carry memories to future generations. Food does more than feed our bodies; it nourishes our souls, it captures memories and moments, and it stores centuries of time.


Food is the Language That Unites Us

It is said that no two people are alike. Billions of souls have inhabited our planet, each one possessing its own unique beliefs and viewpoints, loves, and desires. Despite our differences, there are two activities shared by all of us which are central, actually vital to our being—our first response when delivered from the womb is to breathe, the second is to eat.

Yet eating is far more than simple sustenance. Food is how we relate with others. At a shared table, families tell stories of day-to-day events, but they also connect—children learn, relationships are nurtured, memories are shared, and dreams blossom.

Food is present when we celebrate milestones—births, graduations, weddings; it is a comfort to the bereaved and a lifeline to the sick and needy. Eating is the common denominator of mankind, the one activity in which we share a mutual bond.


My Mother's Hands Told the Story

My fascination with the importance, the heritage, and the folklore of food began years ago in my mother’s kitchen. It started with curiosity—watching my mother at work. Cookbooks sat on the shelf, but I never saw them being used. It seemed that every measurement, every action was known, memorized, and almost involuntary.

Our meals were simple, but they were nourishing, comforting, and I knew instinctively that they were handed down from the previous generation to our own. I knew that the food my mother made for us was a piece of her childhood, and of the children before her, and so on, and so on.

I see my mother’s hands

deftly spooning flour into an earthenware bowl.

A pinch of salt,

egg yolks the color of the sun

as it slips below the horizon.

Recipe books are untouched.

There are no measurements,

Every action is known, memorized, involuntary.

Simply memory.

Deft hands stirring, kneading rhythmically, quickly.

I see the hands of my mother, and of her mother,

and the mothers before.

I see history.

Our history.

When we share our recipes, we share not only our traditions and backgrounds—we share the memories that formed us and make us who we are.

When prepared with care and conscience food can be magic—a true case of the whole exceeding the sum of its parts. Food is an art form, an amalgam of tastes and textures spanning centuries of time.

Eating is the common denominator of mankind, the one activity in which we share a mutual bond.

We may be separated by culture and continent, but food is the language that unites. Food is a part of who we are and what we have been; it is our history. Food has a story to tell.

© 2022 Linda Lum

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