I don’t remember helping my mom in the kitchen. There wasn’t much mother-daughter time when it came to preparing a meal. I would be upstairs changing after swim practice, or doing homework, or killing time until I heard my mom call up the stairs that dinner was ready.
I would come down to find dinner on the table and did not ask any questions. I was not interested in cooking, I honestly didn’t care where these things came from or how they were made. I just knew that some things I liked and somethings I didn’t, but I would eat them all. If you didn’t like what was put in front of you that was tough luck because the kitchen was closed.
You have no idea how much I regret this. I want to storm into my younger self’s room, rip whatever she is doing from her hands, and tell her to get her ass downstairs and learn from her mother. If I knew that my time with her was so limited, that soon learning how to cook side by side would not be an option, I would not have kept putting it off. As a kid, you believe you have all the time in the world... until suddenly you don’t.
I believe that is why I have grown to love cooking so much, it is the only place I feel truly connected to my mom now that she is gone. For years I tried to express my loss and need to explore food through my art, I always fell short. It was never right or it didn’t seem like enough. Honestly, I only discovered recently that I was using the wrong medium. I wasn’t looking for a way to visually capture the storm within my mind and heart when I think about my childhood and how it relates to cooking or how I am trying to recreate a feeling during the act.
The act is the medium, cooking is the medium. It is the ups and downs of creating a recipe. It is knowing when to add just a little more salt. It is the sound of butter melting in the pan. It is the feeling of a freshly sharpened knife gliding through a tomato. These things that I could have come to realize with my mom by my side, like many do, verse piecing it together through trial and error or simply cooking with others.
It is also keeping a carefree attitude, feeling confident that it will go right, and not stressing if it doesn’t. Even though I don’t have many memories of cooking with my mom I have plenty of myself breezing through the kitchen to see her do something silly while mayhem was happening around her. Or at parties when she would completely abandon the stove to interact with her guests because she knew that these friendships were more important than what she would put on the table. Let's be honest, she knew she would rock it even if she stepped away and these people would wait if she said so.
But yes, I regret not being one of those who can say “my mom taught me how to cook”, I am one of those who learned to cook because my mom couldn’t teach me and I wanted to still feel her with me. And eight years later I still do.
I would like to think we could tear up the kitchen, that with a bottle of wine we would simply talk like mother and daughter. We would share a few laughs and somehow through all the antics, we would make something delicious.
She is always with me when I cook, when I taste my food and experience the flavors coming together I know my mom would be smiling into her fork. Like this week, I had a flavor explosion that I was a little wary of. I marinated pork loin chops in apple cider vinegar and coffee to then rub in coffee grounds and red wine, and finally, top with a raspberry and jalapeno sauce. As I said, there was a lot going on. But it worked!
I had to sub coaching for swim practice on my traditional Wednesday night, therefore my original gang was unavailable to watch Handmaid’s Tale any other day this past week, instead, I had my friend Bill come over. All I asked was for him to bring broccoli and bless his heart he also brought Dragon’s Milk beer, which is very good and It is still sitting in my refrigerator because I had a cocktail planned (it is very hard not drink it, I should save it when Bill comes back...right?)