It tasted like baking soda and gasoline, and not the good kind.
Me and food? We have a love hate relationship, in that I love eating it and I hate cooking it!
Growing up, my mom would regularly set her alarm for 4am to make homemade cinnamon rolls, fresh bread, crepes, and more.
Take out was something my friends always talked about but the contents of those boxes and bags were something of a mystery to me. Your mom doesn’t cook you a three course dinner each night, after making you crepes for breakfast, and cookie cutter sandwiches made from homemade bread for school lunch?
Homemade was synonymous with love.
I’m convinced my mom lived most of her life in that kitchen. She’d fill it with the smells of my childhood, opening a cupboard with her hand, while using her hip to bump a drawer closed, all while whisking in time. It was like a dance. A delicious smelling dance.
You could always tell what kind of day she was having before even seeing her. The sound of slamming cupboard doors? Steer clear! Humming and chopping? All good.
Whether it was a celebration or we’d incurred some disappointment or loss, homemade food was there. It was the center of our families world. Instead of pointing all our furniture towards the T.V., we might as well have pointed it at the kitchen.
Our family revolved around that kitchen and that kitchen wasn’t complete without my mom in there making her magic.
I only realized this truth after I left for college and had to rely on cafeteria food at university. Even more shocking was the move from the dorms to a house where I had to do all the cooking myself.
Turns out, I didn’t inherit my moms gift for turning ingredients into love. More importantly, I hated doing it.
Instead of perfect croissant rolls, I’d bake under salted stir fry with a side of crunchy rice. My brownies (from a box) wouldn’t come out gooey, tasting like fudge. They were more like last nights meat loaf, coated in baking soda and dipped in gasoline. And don’t even ask me about my oatmeal. The pan wasn’t the only thing it stuck to.
I wasn’t a bad cook. I was a terrible cook, and I hated everything about it!
All through college I’d go through periods when I’d try to emulate my mom’s cooking. Serving up elaborate meals for boyfriends, best friends, roommates or coworkers. With time and practice, things became more than edible. They became yummy.
But it still took so. much. work!
Exhausted after throwing a dinner event, I’d vow to never cook again, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every meal. You’d be surprised how long I could eat that meal, but all good things must come to an end. Eventually I’d get sick of peanut butter and jelly and surrender to the kitchen.
I couldn’t seem to find the sweet spot between cooking and burnout. To be totally honest, if I could, I’d hire a full time cook, especially if they got someone else’s kitchen dirty instead of mine.
My mom gave me a love for food but I’ll never be able to replicate her unique combination of love and flavor.
She’s been gone more than ten years now. Still, celebrations and struggles are punctuated by the pungent smells and flavors of the foods I’ve fallen in love with from around the world. When reminiscing about places I’ve had the privilege to visit, it always comes around to what we ate there. When my children are having a hard day, brownies and cookies are my go to (don’t worry, they don’t taste like gasoline anymore).
For some people food may be a means to an end. To be honest, that’s probably a more healthy approach. But in my life, family is a flavor.
We don’t always understand why our parents do the things they do. Often, it isn’t until we’re grown, and they’re gone, that we can fully appreciate all the ways they expressed their love, and all the ways we misinterpreted their magic.
At times, I can still hear her in the kitchen: hip bump, cupboard slam, whisk, whisk, whisk. She’s there in the kitchen now, watching over me as I salt the soup for my family, adding a dash of her love to the pot.
My hope is to shed some light on the opportunities we have to awaken a deep sense of peace from within and to then use that inner peace to make the world more whole.
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