Cooking and Connecting

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.

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Conflict

I like to think of myself as quite an empathetic person. I listen to my friends, I cry in movies, I like to help out those in need, and most people know I have quite a thing about the homeless. But I manage to do this while being proud of what I’ve acheived and what I have. And I’m not sorry for that.Just because I can be understanding of those that have less than me, doesnt mean I need to be ashamed of what I have.

And yet…

There are certain things I have, which others in my family do not. Whether that is money, or love, or friendship, or a career, these are all aspects of my life which I put a lot of hard work into, and have taken me a long time to accept that I deserve.

And yet…

When will that voice stop? When will I finally be able to believe the things I say, and not get knocked over by the negative comments and looks? With one “Oh..” and a sigh in my direction, I suddenly feel like I shouldnt be able to enjoy the life I’ve built for myself, because you dont have it as well.

In the least harsh way possible.. how is that my fault? I try and let you experience as much of my life as possible. I try and include you, in fact-I want to include you. But it’s never enough. It’s never all the outings and invitations and time spent together that you remember. It’s only the rare occasion when you’re not included, even (or perhaps especially) when you easily could have joined in by simply asking.

Instead, you refuse to join in when asked, and then make me feel awful for doing something for myself. When I’m trying to enjoy spending time with my nuclear family, instead of encouraging us and being happy that we’re going out together, you can only focus on the fact that you dont have what we do.

I’m sorry. This probably isnt making me seem very nice. You dont have the support system that I do. In many respects, you are alone. Maybe a better person than me would feel more sorry for you. Include you in everything. Brush over it when you do that face which is primarily meant to show me how hard everything is for you, and take it as a true mirror of your feelings, rather than a statement of martyrdom. I suppose I’m not that nice a person to begin with. Because it is hard for me. Unbearably so.

I can imagine exactly what you would think if you read this. She doesnt want me to spend time with them. I’m such a burden. I’ll keep myself to myself from now on. Oh how you would miss the point so fantastically. I love spending time with you. R loves spending time with you. When we get the opportunity, all three of us love it. It’s the other times. It’s when I have joy that doesnt include you, when I go out, or have a treat, or experience something that’s just mine in my life, or just ours as a unit of 3, that it all seems to go wrong. And as I’ve said, I can see that it must be difficult for you, because I know you feel alone.

But as crazy as this sounds, It leaves me wondering… Does it improve your happiness to take away mine?