Cooking with Mama
January 21, 2012 – The last several years, Mom has been ordering in the majority of the food for the Chinese New Year dinner that she hosts. And I get it, it’s a lot of work. All that chopping, prepping and cooking. But you know, that take out stuff is just not as good as the homemade stuff. This year, I had a brilliant idea. Rather than order in a bunch of greasy, fried “Chinese” food, I proposed that my sisters and I take the day and help Mom cook the meal. We would arrive early, help with the chopping and prepping and we’d actually learn to cook her special dishes. It’s something we should have been doing for a long time. Their immediate response was Are you crazy? (I never learned to cook until I left home. That should say enough about being in the kitchen with Mom!) But the more they thought about it, the more they thought it was a good idea. LJ ran it past Mom. Her initial reaction was Are you crazy?
She came around after further discussion with M. They went over the menu we proposed. She told M that if we all arrived by 10 in the morning we could get it all done. LJ agreed to be the one to take them shopping for the groceries since she would be late to arrive on cooking day. All set. Or were we? I called her the night before to confirm our arrival time. Ai ya! She was cranky! She wouldn’t specify a time, said we didn’t have to come . . . she was not buying into the wonderful mother/daughters bonding scenario. She was being herself. What had I gotten us into? Hell’s Kitchen meets The Joy Luck Club? I hopped the train to the ‘burbs with some trepidation, steeling myself for the criticism that would surely come when I cut the veggies at the wrong angle.
We arrived to find Mom relaxed and in rather a good mood. Of course she and Dad had gotten up early and done 50% of the prep work! She sat us down and revealed the secret of stuffing the mushrooms. I pulled out my camera and Dad offered to take a picture. I thought it was cute that he didn’t take just the one, but went to the other side of the room to get us from another angle. He seemed kind of giddy. He was buying into the bonding moment!
I knew my plan was a success when Mom said she didn’t want to go out to a restaurant for Dad’s birthday this year. That we’d all come together and cook the meal. A new tradition has been born.
© Kiki Yee, 2012