06 May 2013

Draft: On my mother's cooking

I’ve lived away from home for nearly six years now - that’s more than a quarter of my life - I turned twenty not too long ago. I went to boarding academy for high school and I’ve been away for college and my time abroad. Naturally when I come home or if somebody starts talking to me about home, they might ask “I’ll bet you miss your mother’s cooking.” And I’ll smile, but inside I really want to say, Why would I miss my mother’s cooking? We’re not an African-American family from the South or an Italian clan from New York. 
Honestly, I wonder, what could be so special about one’s mother’s cooking? No offense to my mother or anything, it’s not like she’s a horrible cook, but I just don’t understand what could be so great about her cooking?
Perhaps now I should provide some sociological context to explain my disillusion with the prestige placed on matriarchal gastronomy. My family is Asian so we’ve got the rice and tofu thing going on, and we’re also Adventists so we have a strong emphasis on vegetarian dishes. …
See, I don’t say I terribly miss my mother’s cooking because to say I miss my mother’s cooking seems to support a misogynistic complementarian ideology. It suggests an image of her slaving away in the kitchen while I sit at the table waiting to be served. That’s not the way things were with me and my mother, so maybe that’s part of why I can’t say I miss my mother’s cooking. 
You know what I miss? I miss my mother. I miss working in the kitchen with her, experimenting with cooking techniques or trying new recipes. I miss discussing the ingredients we used and ways we tried to make it healthier. I miss looking at a cookbook with her and planning a course for a potluck, or a party, or a Friday night dinner. I miss going to a restaurant with her and critiquing the food, telling ourselves we could do it better. I miss the table discussions where we talked about our week, our plans for the next, or my goals for the future.
Maybe part of it is that there is an egalitarian agreement between me and my mom. From a young age she could see that I was independent and that I could lead. She started giving me household responsibilities and I started taking motherly duties seriously. Eventually she started seeing me as something of an equal when I became an adult. Sure I’m still her dear little boy; I’m her son and still subordinate to her, but when it comes to things like laundry, or gardening, or the kitchen - it isn’t about what she can do for me. It’s about what we can make together. So that’s why I don’t miss my mother’s cooking. Because it isn’t about her cooking - it’s about us coming around that table together. That’s what I miss.

Manila, Philippines

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