Love in Cooking
I grew up in a house where food meant family. My friends and I making homemade pasta for my grad party, the last time I had all of them together. I’ve been surrounded by cooking and good food, surrounded by family, friends, and love.
It started when I started to watch my family cook. My mom seasoning cauliflower with so much turmeric that the kitchen utensils stained yellow. My dad carefully pouring steamed milk into a staggering amount of espresso shots. My older sister flambéing hearty pieces of chicken, singeing a part of her eyebrow in the process.
Our house was always filled with a different aroma night after night: the saltiness of dumplings with soy sauce, the savoriness of chickpea curry, the sweetness of banana bread. School night after school night, I watched my mom cook whatever she wanted to. She was always cheerful about it, never complaining about the meals she prepared.
I was shocked. I never understood how she enjoyed cooking so much. Being a ten year old, I saw how most of my friends' parents hated doing it, how my friends sustained a diet of Kraft mac and cheese and go-gurts because that’s just how it was for them. So I asked her one day:
“Mom, why do you like cooking?”
She started to explain her relationship to food: how her dad loves to cook and try new recipes, how her mom loves to bake the German desserts she grew up eating. My mom later became an amateur home baker, making desserts for her neighbors and friends when she moved to the small, unfamiliar Georgia state island called St. Simons.
Then she mentioned her relationship with my dad.
“When your dad and I first started dating, I would come home after my job and make dinner before he got back from work. I would set the table and have everything ready. But one day, when he got home and started to see this was a pattern, he wasn’t too happy about it.
He said, ‘Never do this again. Because we should be doing this together.’ It was so freeing to hear that. I saw cooking as a sort of duty, and your dad started to see that in me. He empowers people in small ways.”
She went back to dumping copious amounts of cayenne pepper onto the sizzling green beans. I didn’t understand what her experiences would mean until almost a decade later.
I realized how the process of making food brings people together. Experiences bond people more than material things, learning more about a person along the way. It’s why I enjoy cooking today. It reminds me of the times I was with my family. And it helps me build new ones.