by Chris de Serres
She took out two large bowls. Some eggs and other mysterious ingredients. Soon this light and fluffy meringue filled one bowl. I dipped a finger in when she wasn’t looking. The lemons appeared and a crust. She set the timer and I tried to keep busy for the next 40 minutes.
Sometimes she was sneaky. She managed to make the pie and have it in the oven while I was in my room. The aroma was like a beacon calling me.
Food in our family was a salve. It smoothed the rough edges of the day. It engaged. It brought together. It made our family warm and open. It was a part of my mother’s identity in this world. She was strong but incredibly fragile. For all her insecurities and perceived failings in life, her food brought happiness. It was a one of the central ways she expressed love for us.
Even as an adult, when she knows I will be visiting she makes all my favorites. When I walk into the kitchen, there they are, all lined up waiting for me. Her love. It is like a welcome home for her child.
When we talk about her food I can see her eyes light up. Her food is magnificent to me, even though she deprecates herself quite thoroughly in the telling of it.
“Oh, it is easy to make. You just do this and add that.”
She makes it as if anyone could do what she does. She doesn’t understand what her food symbolizes or means to us, her children. Truly.
Throughout my childhood I always took her for granted. I expected her meals. Even as an adult, I asked her to cook for me meals I could have made on my own. I guess I just wanted one more expression of her love.
I understand her food in a way I never did when I was younger. This is the role I fulfill in my own family. I cook for my wife and child every day. I can see that they are much more appreciative of my food than I ever was for my mother.
No matter how hard my day at work is, at the end of the day I cook. Our food brings us together. It is a communication. I give and they receive. To see them receiving my food is a glorious thing to be a part of. They don’t like everything I make, but when they do I swell with pride.
I wonder how it will be when my daughter leaves us. I imagine she is in college in another city. Or on an adventure in an exotic country. I send my wife to the airport to pick her up. I work feverishly, making all of her favorites. I line them up on the counter and wait for her arrival.