My mom and I are close, but it’s a different kind of close. We don’t talk on the phone often, or keep close tabs on each other’s personal lives, but we love each other unconditionally. Growing up I had the privilege and blessing of home cooked meals. When I called my mom yesterday she answered the phone with a giddy, “Hi love bug!” I had called at just the right time, 7:30pm, because by 8pm my mother’s waking hour hits and her brain starts functioning on half the cylinders.
I wanted her to help me understand how she started cooking and just how awful my siblings and I really were as kids. My mom’s basis of cooking started with what she knew: her parents cooking. She had watched her mom growing up and when the time came that she was off to college, she had a heavy belt full of recipes. On the other hand, my mom is a self-driven person and knows her way around the kitchen. Much of what she cooked were simple home dishes. Considering herself more of a cook than a chef, she got creative with what we had available in the kitchen. Although always giving the impression she “just whipped it up”, somehow every meal tasted great. My mom was also very adventurous with her cooking. She loved to try different cultural cuisines, even if Trader Joe’s was providing most of the flavor combination. We would get anything from Tofu Curry to something resembling a Tamale.
What really stuck with me was my mom’s advice on the most important thing you’d share about cooking. When I asked her she explained to me, “ One: Never waste food. And two: cooking is about community.” My mom lives to feed; she does not waste and is always concerned about making sure those she loves never go hungry. I can remember the days after school when my friends and I would walk into the house and upon our first greeting my mom would ask, “Is anyone hungry?” Even when the responses were no she somehow managed to slip a plate of appetizers or fruit in the room. My mom has not only taught me the basics of cooking, but continues to teach me the bigger meaning behind food and its value. Food is not just something we eat to survive, but something that brings people together. No matter what the circumstances, my family always sat down at the dinner table together. Food unites people and I hope one day I can show that to others just as my mom has showed it to me.