A while ago, awhile ago, I sat down and watched my mom bake cupcakes for Teacher Appreciation Week at my elementary school. She danced skillfully in the kitchen. Her execution of the chocolate and vanilla cupcake recipe was like a choreography that she had perfected. I wouldn’t be surprised if she could cook with her eyes closed considering how much time she’s spent in the kitchen. Despite the late hours, repeated beating of the mixer and opening and closing of the oven ensued, and she worked meticulously as the night went on. I remember a specific moment when she let me play with a little frosting. At that point, I stopped and asked her why she wanted to make all of my teachers’ cupcakes in the first place.
It was not uncommon for my mother to cook food for other people. Even in my earliest memories, she prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Everyone always commented on my school lunches as if they were Michelin starred meals with heart and star shaped ham, cheese and crackers or freshly made salmon that baked the container in the pan. steam. Each lunch consisted of the main course, a snack, and fruit, all with large portions that I almost never could finish. On the days we ate leftovers for dinner, she always made at least one new dish to serve. She was motivated by our compliments “yum”, “mms” and “it’s so good”; I could see her happiness each time as she explained what had happened in the preparation of the meal.
For our birthdays, she would spend the whole day – sometimes even two – baking whatever we wanted with a birthday cake in whatever flavor we liked. We returned from extracurricular activities with the scent of his hard work floating in the air outside, strengthening as we entered the house.
On the weekends we went to our family friends, my mom would cook platters of fried rice or spring rolls, or spend all day baking her famous Vietnamese honeycomb cake that everyone loves. She was always excited when we left and her trays were empty because everyone was enjoying the food.
My mom always insisted on giving each member of the family the parts of the dish that she knew they liked the most. In her lukewarm Vietnamese sour soup, she always gave me chopsticks full of bean sprouts – my favorite part – or let my uncle take the dishes when she made Korean fried chicken because she knew he preferred them to the drums.
After a long wait, my mom replied that food is like love. You put time and effort into it so that when you give it to someone, they instantly become happier. She said that for Teacher Appreciation Week, something homemade would be meaningful to the teachers who worked so hard. I didn’t quite understand what she meant at the moment, thinking she was just talking about food is love – that if you feed someone, it means you love them. And maybe this interpretation I made when I was 8 was correct, but I think it’s more than that. She taught me that love is not an easy emotional or emotional state, but something that takes time to build. You can not only love, you have to create it, prepare it, and prepare it into something amazing to be worth giving, for empty I-love you mean nothing. And maybe that’s why my mom never verbalizes her love but instead prepares her food with it. At the same time, I think she was also saying that our love is also valuable. It goes to people who deserve it and show they care, it’s not something we can always give freely.
Feeding has become my way of saying I love you, and I believe my mom is the reason. Sharing food with my friends, cooking with my roommates, and the bonding process around food have all become staples of my love. If there was a sixth language of love it would be sharing food and it would be my number one language in the blink of an eye.
MiC columnist Hannah Nguyen can be reached at [email protected]