Food Seasoned with Love
American author James D. Salinger (1919 – 2010) published Franny, a short story, in The New Yorker magazine in 1955. In 1957 he published Zooey, a novella, in the same magazine. As this short story and the novella narrate the tale of the Glass siblings Fran and Zooey, Salinger put together both these works into one book, Franny and Zooey which came out in 1961. While critics gave only mixed reviews, the book became a phenomenal best seller and it was on top of The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers list for 26 consecutive weeks.
In the short story Franny, Franny is a college student majoring in theology and the story mostly deals with her weekend date with her boyfriend Lane Coutell. Franny is depicted as carrying around The Way of a Pilgrim, a spiritual book which teaches the power of praying without ceasing. It is an indication that she is deeply interested in strengthening her spiritual life.
In the novella Zooey, Franny is home from college for a long weekend but is totally depressed. As she is a nervous wreck, she is unable to enjoy her time with her mother Bessie and the only living brother Zooey. Her other brother, Buddy had died a few years ago. Trying to cheer her up, her mother prepared some chicken soup for her. As the steaming cup of soup was placed in front of her, she pushed it away without thinking twice.
As her brother Zooey watched this rejection, he was shocked. “I’ll tell you one thing, Fanny,” he said. “If it’s theology and religious life you’re studying, you ought to know that you are missing out on every single religious action that’s going on in this house. You don’t have enough sense to drink of the cup of consecrated chicken soup, which is the only kind of chicken soup that mom ever brings to anybody!”
As Zooey said, the food prepared by his mom was always consecrated food. It was food always consecrated with love! While Zooey had this insight, Franny had no clue about what her Mom was doing. She was a student of theology, religious life, and mysticism. However, she had the least awareness of the religious action that was going on in their house.
The chicken soup prepared by her mom with love was “poured out” as a sacrament to soothe her soul. It was meant not only to refresh her body but also her soul. In fact, it was primarily meant to revive her hurting spirit. However, as Zooey said, Franny failed to understand and appreciate the love with which her mom prepared the soup for her, or in other words, the sacramental value of the food.
We need not blame Franny since very often
we ourselves fail to understand and appreciate the love and sacrifice with
which moms, housewives and others prepare food for us. Do we ever show our
appreciation and gratefulness for their love and sacrifice in preparing
delicious food for us day in and day out? There are times they may even have to
prepare food with tears in their eyes. Do we ever see these tears?
As Zooey pointed out to Franny, the food prepared by our loved ones is truly consecrated food and we should never fail to see its sacramental value. Even when food is prepared by our servants, let us not forget their love, sweat and tears involved in preparing food for our nourishment. If we fail to enjoy our food, it is probably because of our failure in seeing the sacramental and sacrificial aspect of what they do for us.
Zooey’s insight that preparing food is a religious action should make everyone think about the great and unseen value of what is happening in the kitchen. It is also reminder for moms, housewives and others to prepare food always consecrated with love remembering that they are involved in a true religious and sacramental action bringing life to others.