The Men’s Prayer Group of our church, The Crossing, meets at our house on Wednesday nights.  We’ve been going through a book called Who I am in Christ by Neil T. Anderson.  The other thing you need to know about our group is that it’s filled with a bunch of foodies, so as we’re prone to do, we do a themed food night every time we hit a milestone in the book.  We declare it a milestone every 3-4 weeks.  For this week, I was in charge of picking the theme.  Since we have reached the last chapter in the book, I thought we should do “your identity in food.”

Each person was to bring a dish tied in one way or another to their identity then explain the connection to the group.  Among the dishes brought were clam chowder, grilled cheese sandwiches, pork tenderloin sandwiches, fried chicken, and ice cream sandwiches.  (For the record, at no point have we ever claimed that food night was especially healthy nor easy on the stomach.  In fact, I’m thinking of deep fried food night in particular, food night typically ends in a bout of gluttony leaving many of us napping on the couches.)

I made BBQ chicken wings.*  I thought about making a Jamaican or a British dish as they spoke directly to my cultural identity, but the wings meant more to me.

My dad was not one quick to say “I love you” when we were growing up.  Nor was he an especially huggy person.  That’s just not how his generation did things.  But he would make chicken wings.  Our Sunday dinners, no matter how poor we were, were spectacles.  We’d usually have a couple different meats, assorted side dishes, and something either from Jamaica or England.  Not all of these culinary adventures would be a success, but my dad always made chicken wings and would set them in front of me for me to get first dibs on them.  No matter what we had, or failed at making, he’s have chicken wings for me because he knew I loved them.

I always took that as him saying that he thought about me and loved me.  In fact, the BIG display of love would be if we finished our plates and were out of food but were still hungry.  He’d give me the wings from his plate.  I wouldn’t eat the tips of the wings, however.  As we hated to let food go to waste, my father would always  take the stack of wing tips and eat them for me.  To this day, I still don’t eat the tips of chicken wings and I set them aside as if waiting for my dad to come collect them.  It’s like a ritual of love and remembrance.

Now, I have no problems saying “I love you” to my sons or showering them with embarrassing kisses.  But how I share food with them has become important to me even if they never notice.  They always eat first.  And if they finish their food and are still hungry, they get the food from my plate.  That’s just another way of showing and saying “I love you” in our family.

Though I’m glad my dad has gotten better about just saying the words now.  You can never hear that too often from your father.

*I’d post a picture of them, but I’m pretty sure I under-cooked them.  It wasn’t until I called my dad to get the recipe that I realized I never made them before for myself despite them being one of my favorite dishes.