Secret Ingredient


“It was very pleasant to savor its aroma, for smells have the power to evoke the past, bringing back sounds and even other smells that have no match in the present. -Tita, Like Water for Chocolate

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R Tolkien



I learned to make pancakes as a Girl Scout and remember the smell of liver and onions simmering in my mothers kitchen. It’s still a favorite, the scent of food prepared with love, a deep childhood memory. That my mother found time to prepare meals every day amazes me now. We never ate out and rarely had company. No take out Chinese or save the day pizza. My mother cooked every day. Only as an adult can I understand a little about how hard her life alone with four children must have been. How hard it must have been to make it happen in the kitchen… every day.

So what’s with this passion for food and fellowship. I’m still not quite sure but I guess it was her…in spite of the circumstances she prepared every meal with love. I’m sure I felt that. It was one of the many ways she showed love.

But I didn’t learn to cook at home. I’m a recipe girl through and through. I tweak to make things mine but I know how to follow a recipe. A clear recipe offers a guideline and serves as a foundation for safe exploration. My first cookbook was B. Smith’s Entertaining and Cooking for Friends, purchased in Costco for $15. This book was my food bible. Her recipes, scriptural revelation for the meals I’d prepare for my new husband. In the tiny kitchen of our first apartment I’d cook gourmet soul food by candlelight – thoroughly reading each instruction….chapter and verse. Listening to Sade and Nina Simone I’d lean into the poetry of a perfect dish.

I learned to cook many such meals for my husband, but it was important for me to invite friends and family into our little love bubble. I worked hard to mix traditional soul/comfort food with my interest in international flavors and wanted to share my smothered chicken, savory pumpkin and black bean soup…my basmati pilaf with vegetables. I didn’t have a reference point for entertaining and I certainly had no budget. I’d work it out in prayer…trusting God to figure out the details.

Holidays seemed the perfect time to experiment. I chose Thanksgiving. If the food wasn’t a hit, perhaps my guests would find a few more reasons to reflect on being grateful that year. That was the plan anyway. So I downloaded a recipe for roasting my first turkey and went to work ironing out the details my first gig as hostess with the mostest. Thanksgiving 1997 found us with 28 guests in our tiny 2 bedroom apartment. Whether on the floor or perched in fold up chairs against a wall, we made it through our first holiday dinner. Food and family in tact.

food and family : figuring it out

a few of the friends who survived my first Thanksgiving meal

Later that year a personal health emergency made me consider nutrition in a new way. So now, not only did I want to serve interesting, diverse foods, I wanted the food to be of the highest quality and nutritionally sound. I began to think about food and family and how it connected to my dreams for raising children one day.

A large part of that vision involved feeding my family right. What better way to say I love you than through the intimacy of food. They say when you know better, you do better. I’d grown up eating over cooked canned vegetables and I still felt the love. So I know it’s not just the food but the spirit in which it’s served. But I’d learned so much about the benefits of a whole food diet. I wanted to take it up a notch.

The kitchen was my laboratory and God met me there. Measuring ingredients, sifting flour, chopping vegetables – all taught patience and helped me learn to pay attention. I hoped my “one day” children would glimpse his glory through an ongoing course in home economics – starting with the deeply meditative and spiritual work done in a kitchen.

I took the responsibility of nourishing my family seriously. I wanted to open the world of good food and fellowship by teaching my children about hospitality. I wanted to establish rituals around the kitchen table and introduce them to a way of communing with God as they cared for their temples.

My first was a boy and like most children, naturally inquisitive. I thought I’d hook my little professor with the science of cooking. We made playdoh and ooblek and talked about elements on the periodic table. A hands-on approach in the culinary arts would teach him to love and respect the kitchen. So we read books and made bread and apple pie. He stood on a chair next to the mixer and learned to count to twenty waiting for flour and butter to come together. The grainy pebble texture only lasts for a few seconds before it’s over done.

The secret ingredient in every meal is love. Age old wisdom from the ancestors I’m sure – because no one ever said it to me but it’s a life motto for sure.  The movie Like Water For Chocolate does a great job of expressing this.  The main character, Tita, cries in the kitchen, stirring tears and mixing her emotions with everything she prepares. Pouring this kind of truth into my son at an early age let him know how important and powerful the connection between food and feelings. “Get your heart right before going in the kitchen”, I’d say.

LiChai counted chips and sliced apples. He’s melted butter. He bakes. A teenager, he’s in the kitchen alone now and makes dinner for the family once a week. I saw each layer of responsibility as a step stool he could use to grow more confident. He knows the satisfaction of preparing a meal for people he loves. And probably more than he’d like to hear, I tell him how much his wife will love him. Especially if food is one of her love languages.

Every few years or so God has seen fit to add another child to our family.  They each join him on or around the chair, peering over my trusty KitchenAid mixer (man that was the best $300 I ever spent). And every time I say, “Hands back, watch the dough with your eyes, let’s count to twenty.”

Time in the kitchen with my family is a gift. Sharing and praying over food with friends is an open door for deeper conversations and an intimate knowing of the people God’s given me to do life with. Meal times are made for love.

Lisha Epperson / Posts / Blog
Lisha Epperson is a hopeful romantic, lover of Jesus and most things antique. A happy wife and mother of 5, she joyfully shares a warrior song about her 14 year walk through infertility and the semi-sweet miracle of adoption. Lisha works out a life of faith with fear, trembling, and a whole lot of grace in New York City. Follow her blog at, and here for Facebook and Twitter
  • Lori Harris

    You’ve made me smile this morning,Lisha. And you’ve made me want to go bake an apple pie.
    I can feel the warmth of your home in every word and I long to pull up a chair and have you share a slice of your life with me.

    December 8th, 2014 12:09
    • Lisha Epperson

      It’s funny but we haven’t had a house full of friends over in a long while. We have more space but God knows, less time. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. Look at us in that picture crammed on our bed to mark the moment with our smiles. Writing this and seeing that picture reminds me that it’s about relationship more than having the perfect place setting and loads of gourmet food to serve. Alia broke it down last week with the term “hijacked hospitality”. Did y’all read it?

      December 8th, 2014 17:11
      • Tori

        Hello there TC Champigny I enjoyed your great blog post on Canine Eye Problems And Solutions. Great post, thanks aleuA.ztcona recently posted..

        March 8th, 2017 20:18

        Just now I realized I never been to golu all these years, though I have been invited a couple of times during my college days. Good golu you have there.

        April 23rd, 2017 14:39
  • Mary Bonner
    Mary Bonner

    Oh, sweet Lisha!! I would love to be in the kitchen with you, then share a meal. Beautiful expression of love and life in the kitchen. Like Lori, I want to share a slice of your life!!

    December 8th, 2014 12:56
    • Lisha Epperson

      we’re going to start that with an ice cream cone this summer Mary. Let’s make that happen. Happy to see you, to know you’re well.

      December 8th, 2014 17:05
  • Christie Purifoy

    Love this! I, too, received love from my mother through food. Especially her from-the-box chocolate pudding. So, yes, the spirit in which something is served matters most. Today, I show my children love through food, though I never make anything from a box. Our love has its own flavor, I suppose. Thanks for sharing these memories.

    December 8th, 2014 14:55
    • Lisha Epperson

      I’m remembering the smell in her kitchen when I knew one of my favorites was being prepared. Nobody makes liver and onions like my mama, coming home to that smell was divine. We ate the “from the box” chocolate pudding too Christie…and anything from Dunkin Hines.

      December 8th, 2014 17:05
  • Linda@Creekside

    Your culinary journey is a spiritual one, isn’t it, Lisha … we just can’t separate one are of our lives from the other. And He is in the midst of it all.
    Loved this … and it’s good to visit you again …

    December 8th, 2014 15:39
    • Lisha Epperson

      It is Linda. I have some of the best conversations with God in my kitchen.

      December 8th, 2014 16:57
  • Karrilee Aggett

    Oh I love this… I love how nurturing and feeding starts with food – but it rarely ever ends there! Love you friend! Oh to share a meal and a table again! One day! One day, my friend!

    December 8th, 2014 17:09
  • Deidra

    Such good words here, Lisha! Makes me remember our very first Thanksgiving. I called my mother-in-law and invited her to join us. “I’ll bring the cranberry sauce,” I told her.

    Black bean and pumpkin soup. Yes. I need that recipe.

    December 8th, 2014 17:52
    • Lisha Epperson

      Done. Let me know how you like it. I think I’ll share the recipe on FB. It’s too good and simple to keep to myself.

      December 8th, 2014 23:14
  • Kris Camealy

    This is beautiful, Lisha. My Grandfather used to always say “food is love” and I grew up experiencing love through food, and have grown into someone who loves my own family through food. Your family memories here, and your passion for incorporating your faith into the kitchen is something we share. I always meet God in the kitchen. It’s a mystery to me why–but that’s so often where I find Him, and where He speaks to me…

    December 8th, 2014 18:00
    • Lisha Epperson

      I laugh and cry and yell in the kitchen. I’m also silent there. God is so good in meeting me in a place I connect with so much love.

      December 8th, 2014 23:16
  • Robin Dance

    I love how you heard what your mama spoke, Lisha. That is such a loving tribute to her! And you are so brave–28 people? Honey…THAT’S an accomplishment!! That they lived to tell is icing on the cake ;).

    Your heart is beautiful in this, too; how you’re training your children both with your mother’s touch and your own–adding people to their recipes. You’re one smart cookie…and I’d love to join you at the table.

    NO–I’d love to join you in the KITCHEN and we could cook side by side!

    December 8th, 2014 18:53
    • Lisha Epperson

      People were everywhere Robin. Grandmothers and mothers with babies got the seats but most of us sat on the floor or on the bed you see pictured. I’d be afraid to do it now but I’m glad we did it then. I’m working on reclaiming hospitality, it appears to have gone away with the free time I’ve lost. I’d like both baking then breaki g the bed. Oneday….

      December 9th, 2014 3:18
    • Brandy

      Thanks for inutrdocing a little rationality into this debate.

      March 9th, 2017 1:43
  • Jamie

    “The kitchen was my laboratory and God met me there.” I feel the same way. The alchemy of creativity and prayer and love. It’s a gift passed down to me from mother and grandmother, and one I hope to continue. Thank you for this post.

    December 8th, 2014 21:18
  • Lisha Epperson

    I love how you expressed that Jamie…the alchemy of creativity and prayer and love. Now that was beautiful. Thanks for stopping by Jamie!

    December 9th, 2014 3:19
  • Annie Barnett

    I love how seamless this is – from your childhood to now, all these stories and threads forming who you are and how you create in the kitchen, and why you do what you do there. Love hearing your heart here and getting to know you a little more here, Lisha.

    December 9th, 2014 3:35
  • pastordt

    This is beautiful, Lisha. Although I have loved entertaining in my life, cooking? Well not quite so much as you clearly do. But getting sidelined this year, unable to do meals for almost two months – well, I’m back at it with a better attitude, that’s for sure. Just grateful to be able to stand and get from drawer to counter to fridge to oven to stovetop! Thanks for this.

    December 9th, 2014 4:35
  • Traci Rhoades

    Lisha, I’m not crafty. I browse through Pinterest on occasion to see what I might want that others could make for me. But cooking? I can relate to this post a lot. My daughter and I love our time together in the kitchen. My husband and I tag team meals all sumer long. He’s usually at the grill and I’m making sides inside. I’ve been enjoying this new site and am so glad to see you’re a part of it!

    December 9th, 2014 17:03
  • Dawnsheren

    Wow Lisha, this bought tears of joy to eyes! Your kids are so blessed, the way they are raised has grown their gifts and curiosities. Luv u and your wonderful writing!

    December 9th, 2014 17:51
    • Janae

      My friend was talking about a book about a person who is given the option of pressing a button which gives them $5,000 or sotihmeng everytime they press it, but each time they press it, a person dies. Does anyone know the name of the book?

      March 8th, 2017 20:38

      Spring excites us too. I chose lots of Sunshiny hymns for Relief Society today. I couldn't help myself. Good luck with learning French. I would definitely need to be set apart to learn another language.

      August 30th, 2017 20:38
  • Anisha

    Thanks for stitarng the ball rolling with this insight.

    November 6th, 2016 0:40
    • Julissa

      One wouldn’t know that Chris Dodd and Joe Biden, relatively powerful longterm members of the SENATE are even in this race.I really despise the media. They have “anointed” Hillary and Obama as the Democratic frnorrunnets to the utter exclusion of the other candidates. The only reason Edwards gets any play is that he was the vice pres. nominee last time out and he has a ton of dough.

      March 8th, 2017 20:20
  • hit deer

    ozjubbI have checked the ROM and the configuration is correct, I know others have reported the problem with this in the past, I have changed the APN file in the rom tonight to try and rectify the problem. I suggest trying one of the GB roms as I know that the MMS works correctly in those.

    March 15th, 2017 4:46

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *