The earliest memory I have with my mom is in the kitchen, I can’t imagine it would be anywhere else. She brought a bowl, two eggs, a measuring cup and pancake mix to the ground because I couldn’t reach the counter. We mixed the ingredients together and she grabbed a chair for me to stand on so I can reach the counter and pour the mix into the pan. She told me to be careful pouring the batter, but I didn’t listen, my finger got too close to the pan, and I got burned. I jumped off the chair crying and my mom picked me up and quickly ran my finger under cold water. I sat at the table crying, and I watched my mom finish making the pancakes.
To this day, I’m still weary of the kitchen; the heat of the over still terrifies me, feeling fire near my skin or even taking something out of the microwave was scary for me. Afraid to get burned once again, I stilled baked with my mom, but I never went anywhere near to oven. I watched her, wondering if cooking will ever give me the same kind of peace I see in my mother. The kitchen was her canvas and her food was her masterpiece. Food to her, was the greatest gift she could give to somebody.
I’ve always believed food is a universal language, it tells the story of the generations of families to the dedicated chef who created them. The only women at the grill, carrying pride and passion, yet extreme modesty. I think it’s because she knows it only takes one taste for people to understand her artwork. She is an artist drawing inspiration from the land that she came from and the one she now calls home.
She is fearless in the kitchen, allowing her to open her shy personality, it’s easier for her to talk to people once they’ve had a bite, because it’s as if they’ve already know a part of her.
At 19- years- old my mother came to America from the Philippines, and has not been back since. While I’m sure her heart sometimes aches for the connection to her past, she has created a new life here and is very much loved. As I’ve grown older, the less she talks about her home country, I wonder if it’s because another day here, is another day further away from the home she once knew. Since I was young I’ve longed for a connection to her past. Asking her to tell me stories of her former life. I would ask more questions in one language than she can answer in Two. She’s a quiet woman, and her stories never carry too much detail, she’s always at a loss for words. But, with each dish came another story. My mom was no longer at a lost for words, she might be bilingual but cooking was her language of choice.
It’s through her quiet and calm serenity I learned that strength comes in many different forms and for my mother, her strength can be found in the endless nights she spends making 1000 rolls of Lumpia without asking for help. Her hands and eyes exhausted, but she can’t dare disappoint and holds her ability with much pride, knowing she’s the only one who can fill each one with her perfection. With each new recipe, she shines and shows her bravery, fearlessly taking on new ingredients and events. I see her courage as she lets strangers try her hand made creation, telling them a story with just a taste. There’s vulnerability in her stories, yet she stands in the middle of a kitchen allowing everyone to watch her make them come to life. I’ll never get the joy on her face when she see’s someone take their first bite.
Throughout the years I often felt as if I was losing my mother to some monster with two faces. Yet, each time I doubted her, she would return to the kitchen, showing me she’s still there. It was the thing that remained constant during my youth. There’s a strength in the ability to find a safe haven in time of trouble. Though it’s a strength I still don’t quite understand, with each taste and each year, I get a little better at understanding.
And I’ve gotten better at listening to my mother’s unspoken words.