Can you remember the first time you cooked with your mother? The first time you were given a wooden spoon and told to stir, carefully? Or handed the oh so heavy bag of flour to pour slowly into a mixing bowl? Or even taught how to crack an egg without having to pick bits of shell out the batter immediately afterward?
Most people probably have formative memories of baking and cooking with their parents, helping to prepare simple suppers or special ocassion baked treats. Apart from being a fun activity to keep kids entertained, it also helps children feel included in the household and is a truly bonding experience for both adult and youngster alike.
My first memory of cooking with my mum however, was this week. “Surely not!” [I hear you cry.] I suppose I’ve never asked and she never offered. We’re very different types of chefs, to say the least, and while she learned all her cooking from school, (meaning she knows all the right movements for ‘fold’ vs ‘stir’ and ‘blanche’ vs ‘saute’) my culinary efforts, mainly self taught, often do end in picking eggshell out the batter. Nevertheless, I’m happy for the most part with my gut cooking instinct, and I would tentatively say I’m a better cook than my mother, perhaps just because I try harder. Perhaps down to the differences between us, both in the kitchen and out of it, we’ve just never bonded over a hot stove.
But this week, I half asked and she half offered to teach me one of our only ‘family recipes.’ As we stood in my kitchen, unpacking ingredients and peeling vegetables, I was struck by how strange it was that we hadn’t done this countless times before. It’s such a standard mother/daughter activity, and surely should have just naturally occured before I was even old enough to remember it. But it didnt. And now, at 24, that natural part of it has drifted somehow askew. As I peeled and chopped and stirred the passover ingredients together, I felt some other emotions being mixed in too. As a child these may have been excitement and wonder at watching our own creation come into fruition. Each slice of our masterpiece would taste better because of the fun and closeness that went into it. As a child, it would be an adventure. As an adult, there was a touch too much inhibition and self-consciousness to give our activity the natural smoothness it should have had. Somewhere mixed in the batter was both of our yearning for this to be just another normal family activity, and to wipe away the bittersweet knowledge that this was the First Time. It felt forced.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in its never too late, and I am so very glad that even at 62 and 24 respectively, we’re finally learning to engage in these ‘normal’ mother/daughter pastimes. Its just that like so many other new things we’re both trying of late, it makes me wonder why we didnt try it years ago.
But the answer to that is obvious. In fact, I’ve already mentioned it right here. Where did my mother learn all her cooking? At school.
And so the way out of this cycle is a no-brainer also. The next time I have an urge to bake a cake, I wont be waiting for R to have his nap. I’ll be making sure he’s right next to me smearing batter over the walls and spilling the flour on the floor. Creating a memory that he’ll never be able to remember.