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Break Bread, Strengthen Bonds: Sarah Moulton

Who wouldn’t be seduced by the aroma of a roasted turkey or the gift of warm homemade cookies? With the holidays quickly approaching, the fall months are the perfect time to indulge in the joys of cooking, especially since kicking loose in the kitchen can be fun and gratifying.

Feeding those you love can be a singular way of communicating. How better to keep tradition alive and celebrate our unique identities than by passing Grandma’s “secret” recipe for angel cake or lasagna on to the next generation? Not only can cooking be an easy way to unwind, it’s also a savory link between friends, family and neighbors.

Chef Sara Moulton remembers the delicious smells coming from her mother’s baking and how it would lift her spirits after a difficult day at school. The emotional connection between food and nurturing is a concept she understands and talks about with enthusiasm. “Cooking is very therapeutic,” says Moulton, who encourages women to see cooking as a pleasure, not a chore. As a mother of two, she of all people understands the multiple demands of a busy schedule: Moulton is executive chef at Gourmet magazine, host of Sara’s Secret’s on the Food Network seven days a week, a frequent guest on ABC’s Good Morning America, and the author of several cookbooks, the newest of which, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, debuted in October.

When Moulton became a mom, she wanted comfort foods to create a warm and soothing atmosphere. She sees preparing meals as a distinct form of caring. “We all must eat, so how better to love our families and make them healthy?”

It doesn’t have to be difficult. Moulton says to keep it uncomplicated, always have a well-stocked pantry; offer enough choices to keep everybody engaged; and focus on doable, realistic recipes. Incorporating leftovers into another night’s meal is another simple solution. The goal with each meal is to make every person in your family part of a community. For Moulton, that extends from cooking to eating. Set the table nicely and enjoy both the food and the conversation, she says.

Moulton first learned about the connection between cuisine and kinship with a circle of female chefs when she was working in Boston with the late Julia Childs. They created a networking system because “women need to help other women,” which led her to co-found the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance in 1982. The organization helps create opportunities for women in the culinary field, which is often difficult for women to penetrate.

Even outside of her chosen profession, Moulton knows that breaking bread has been a way to strengthen the bonds between family members, as well as extending the circle of social relationships. If it isn’t already a part of your regular routine, commit to incorporating some cooking and baking into your holidays this year—for yourself, your family, and your friends.