Mom, before I leave for school will you write down some of your best recipes for me?
I am washing dishes at the sink as my daughter appears in the kitchen with this unusual request. We look at each other for a moment and burst into peals of laughter. Okay, so there will only be about three of them, but I'd like to have them, she tells me.
My daughter knows I have many wonderful qualities. She also knows that cooking is not one of them. She knows she can come to me for advice about anything. Nothing is too big or too small. I am open for mothering twenty-four hours a day. The part about not being a great cook has always bothered me. I blame my tiny postage stamp of a kitchen. I blame my own mother (a true gourmet cook) for not allowing me in her kitchen.
My husband oohs and aahs over my cooking. He will say, Oh this is really good, several times throughout the meal as my daughter and I are scraping the remains on our plates into the trash. I am pretty sure that it is crazy love that makes him say these things about my cooking. I also know that his own mother's cooking was worse than mine, so there's that too.
My mother was not a talker or a listener. She did not hug, and did not want to be hugged. Once, just once, she revealed a secret about herself to me.
Food is the only way I can express love. I was shocked not only by this revelation, but that she would share it with me out loud.
My mother's cooking was beautiful. It was a pleasure to eat every single thing she cooked or baked. It was her talent. It was her way to say "I love you," to her family. The beautiful roasts, the traditional Jewish foods, the brownies warm from the oven after school, these were her "I love you's."
When I had my own daughter, I too wanted my cooking to say, "I love you." If that was all my daughter received from me as a mother, it would be some shaky love. My cooking has the intention of being a loving act. It just doesn't always translate.
So yes, I wish I could cook. I wish I made meals to savor. Meals that would make my daughter run to the table when dinner is ready. I see her poring over a food blogger named Deb. Deb from the Smitten Kitchen.
I turn into Hurt Mother.
I don't see what is so great about her cooking, I say. Although I clearly do. Deb's food blog is homey and delicious looking. Deb irritates me.
My daughter will be leaving for college in a few days. She will be moving into her first ever off-campus apartment. She wants to take on the role as the main cook for her roommates. So after a summer of talking and laughing and discussing everything from the Tea Party to frat parties, she will leave with the knowledge that no, her mother cannot pass on a talent for fine cooking.
And in the end, I've made peace with it. I can give her most everything else.
She'll be fine in her new kitchen. Deb is only a click away.