How cooking together can strengthen the relationship between a mother and child no matter the age.
Food has the ability to feed the soul while nourishing the body. Growing up in India, food and feeding others, are the way we show love and practice hospitality. It's our love language!
During my childhood, cooking with my grandmother, and as I became an adult, trading recipes with my mother are abiding memories.
When I lost my mother, and I was unable to make sense of the tragedy, nor find solace in the adage ‘everything happens for a reason’, I would come home from work and enter the kitchen… still in my work clothes and heels, and start pulling out ingredients to start creating. It was a way to switch my mind off from going in circles, to focus on what I was doing, and create a moment of calm, almost meditative space. The subsequent joy on the faces of my family and friends, as they tasted my creation, lifted my spirits and filled my heart.
While growing up in India, the conversation would center on what we all wanted to eat for the upcoming next meal… as I grew into a young adult, I would enter the kitchen and cook for the family, especially when Granny started keeping unwell, and there was no help in the house. I would ask Granny for recipes or how to make particular dishes, and she would give me notes when laid up in bed. Whilst our bond was always strong, sharing our love of food, cooking and feeding the family, brought us closer.
When I moved to London and my mother would come and visit me, we would spend hours in the kitchen prepping and cooking meals for us and visiting friends. Before she returned to India, she would make large batches of food, to freeze for me. I recall the laughter and teasing, as I would call her out on not wanting to chop and prep, and how by just ‘stirring a pot’ it did not qualify as cooking! Later as I started experimenting with baking and discovered I had a flair for it, Mum would compliment me, while still teasing me about it—I am smiling writing this at the memory of her saying ‘for someone who used to be so clumsy, how do you bake so well and not create a big mess in the kitchen?”
When in a kitchen cooking together, side by side, when there is ease in a relationship, it allows for camaraderie and conversations to flow. It can start with ‘how was your day’ to ‘describe your ideal day’ or ‘what would be the ideal outcome of… fill in the blank (of any situation at hand)’... I would ask my children, ‘what did you learn today’ to which they would invariably reply ‘nothing’ which would lead me to enquire and tease them… or ‘3 things you are grateful for today’ which would lead to the obligatory eye roll, before they would identify the good things that happened to them in the day.
When in the kitchen with Granny, I remember asking her to tell me how she met my grandfather, and why she agreed to marry him… similarly with Mum in the kitchen, we had some serious conversations about her life, her choices, my life, my choices…. It helped me to understand her and empathize with the reasons for some of her decisions, as an adult, as opposed to being my Mum.
Food and cooking is one of the simple pleasures of life, not to mention a necessity.
It feeds most of our senses — visual, aromatic, audible and tactile.
When engaged in the act of cooking, or any other activity which is a shared interest—like walking, hiking, yoga, or exercise, there is a receptiveness as the mind is temporarily switched off from the daily ‘chatter’ and focused on the creation/activity. It also brings the people engaged in the activity into the same mindset with a common purpose and goal, which helps build synergy and leads to open communication, which fosters closer relationships and stronger bonds…
Food builds communities, and allows for legacies to be passed on from generation to generation through the recipes and ingredients shared and handed down through our children.
A legacy can only be left behind by word of mouth!