Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pressure cooker

It is very common for people to claim that no one, and that means absolutely no one on the face of the earth, comes close to their mother's cooking. This is especially, but not necessarily, a typical remark from individuals coming from Latin-speaking countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines or Mexico. Both women and men feel this way about their mother's food: they praise her delicious dishes, brag about them to everyone and indubitably, they will miss her baking, her roasting and her grilling immensely when they haven't got a taste of it in a long time or do not eat it as often anymore. Case in point, a mother’s kitchen remains a sacred place: somewhat impenetrable and never, ever replaceable.

It is a very interesting – and yet at the same time, a questionable – observation since I could not help but wonder… Food for thought: If the world's best cooks are mothers i.e. women, then why is it that the greatest chefs nowadays are men? Shouldn't it be women since a majority of people value their mom's cooking so much more? [Pause for reflection] If you haven’t noticed it yet, just look around the next time you hit the restaurants; there is a very high chance that it is a man who is preparing your next, great meal.

As I tried to come up with some answers on my own, I realized that it was such a difficult task since I was left completely clueless. I tried to foresee, imagine the reasons behind this certain phenomenon; but none that quite satisfied me. So I surveyed around, asking friends and family about their opinion on the given subject. To their own surprise, my inquiry made them contemplate for a while [“Oh that's right, I never really thought about that…”]; and my research resulted into odd, comical situations. Many, like I, just could not find a direct answer. Some presumed that it was because these male chefs learned from the very best (i.e. their mothers) after all; others believed that most women prefer to keep their cooking low key (i.e. mothers do not automatically want to bring their talent to the public and/or work in a restaurant). A few then justified the fact that men ultimately have another – perhaps an even better – ‘culinary’ touch. Finally, I had a few people who were more straightforward, and suggested that men simply, genuinely aspire to become chefs more than women do.

It is only after discussing it with this one special friend that I stopped my investigation, finding the answer I was looking for. The weird thing is that it was only to discover that becoming a chef has basically nothing to do with being male or female. The reason why a large number of people – men as well as women – compliment their mom’s cooking more than anyone’s is because, in the end, a mother’s kitchen is more than just her exquisite cuisine. My very good friend mentioned a passage in one of his favorite books entitled “For One More Day” by Mitch Albom, that reads: "It was as delicious as it was familiar. I don't know what it is about food your mother makes for you, especially when it's something that anyone can make- pancakes, meat loaf, tuna salad- but it carries a certain taste of memory." Enlightenment.

A mother’s expertise, more than preparing the best meals in the entire universe, does indeed give a taste of memory; and it also procures the feeling of belonging and symbolizes the warmth of home. It is then no surprise that every single one of us searches, longs for, needs this somewhat empowering, comforting sensation; especially when we have been away from it for a long time. In the end, this particular taste will never be replaceable; just like a mother can never, ever be replaceable. Sadly, not all of us grew up with a mother (figure) and many claim not having such a great bond with theirs. But if we were lucky enough and were blessed with such a wonderful and admirable person in our lives, we should always be grateful for it and never take her for granted. Being a mother is not a job, it is a vocation. So let us show her how much we appreciate: from the second we were born to us eventually becoming responsible, independent adults; we should learn to sustain and always cherish the relationship we have with our mom. It is a gift from God to have someone care for us, and whose love we will never be able to see the limit of it. It is unconditional, and like her cooking, nothing ever comes close to it.