How food creates family ties – SBS

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Holding my older brother in a headlock on the weekend, it occurred to me that maybe other siblings do family lunch a little differently. “Stop it! I don’t want it to eat it!” he screamed as I mushed large chunks of grapefruit into his mouth in a room full of family members. “Muuuuum!”

“Oh, I’ve been wanting to do this to you for 35 years,” I screamed back. “You’re not so tough now that you’re old and vulnerable, are you?” With that, we both dissolved into giggles as our mother wagged her finger as though her babies – 41 and 49 respectively – were naughty schoolchildren. “What is it with you kids? Every time you come here for lunch, you start behaving like children.”

Oh how we do, but these moments are some of our favourites.

I grew up the baby sister to two much older brothers (our elder brother is 54) and although we’re close in the true sense of the world (they’re the first ones I’d call if I need emotional support or have someone killed), modern living keeps us in very separate worlds.


We live at opposite ends of the city, our lifestyles and friendship circles are poles apart and family commitments keep us firmly within our own orbits until we realise weeks have gone without having spoken to one another. In some families, it’s a disconnect that could fracture relationships or make them less dependable, I suppose, but we have something else, a puppet string of sorts that pulls us all into line as it’s needed.

We have the food served on mum and dad’s table and it turns the three of us into freaks.

“Are you coming over?” I texted one brother recently after our other sibling and I arrived at mum’s to discover massive trays of baklava and elmali (a pastry filled with baked apple) waiting for us. When he responded in the negative, we took the opportunity to photograph ourselves eating everything we could find and sending it across to him complete with “SUF-FER!” notes.

We have the food served on mum and dad’s table and it turns the three of us into freaks.

I won’t repeat what he said, but rest assured all three of us have phones utterly clogged with similar photos: shots of siblings holding up saucepans of cabbage rolls, others of börek crumbs left on a dinner plate. It’s probably the most bizarre method of bonding you’ve ever heard of, but engaging in something that turns responsible adults into kids again, does exactly that.

When we’re all under the same roof for lunch, it’s not much better, with one of us either getting chased and tackled for our food, making fun of our parents for continuing to use the microwave to store food – including chicken (side note: after a lifetime of eating this way, none of us ever get food poisoning) and pushing each other to get to the kitchen first.

Hog the elmali

On one memorable occasion, I took an entire saucepan of our dad’s famous sütlaç (rice pudding) and locked it in my car, and my brothers only found about it when I started sending them pictures of me eating it back in the safety of my own home. “Guess who’s the favourite?” I texted. “Dad let me have the WHOLE THING because he loves me more than he loves you guys.”

Yes, it’s silly and no, it probably doesn’t make sense to any outsider (more than once, we’ve had horrified plus-ones sit at the family dinner table, never to be seen again), but in a world where you’re expected to be a responsible, dependable adult all the time, it’s nice to be able to revert back to your childhood with the “boys” who were your first heroes.

But more than that, after having waited almost four decades for your time to come, it’s nice to finally be in a position where you can physically overpower them and force-feed them grapefruit.

Who says food doesn’t bring families together?


Source: Thanks