I don’t like to cook.
I find the process itself stressful, unenjoyable, and I always leave ingredients out. My meals aren’t bad – I’m not a bad cook – but I find cooking itself anxiety-inducing.
I’m standing, at the element, stirring a roux for macaroni cheese, and I think of bright, sunny Sunday afternoons, with my mother serving up hot, creamy macaroni cheese with bread slathered with butter on the side, cheese bubbling over the crisped breadcrumbs and the sliced tomato quarters she topped it with, and I always wonder how my mother got her macaroni cheeses so much smoother and creamier than mine, and I remember that first, gorgeous bite, hot and savory.
I’m grinding the can opener, opening crushed tomatoes to go into the spaghetti bolognase, and I’m remembering my mother dancing and singing as she cooked – singing nonsense songs and half-remembered pop songs she heard on the radio, getting all the words wrong, her voice fine and high and lovely. She would stir in celery and red wine to her bolognase, and serve them in fine yellow pasta bowls.
I’m mashing potatoes, and I think of how my my mother, in my minds eye, always wears the same clothes when she cooks – a worn dark turtleneck and black leggings – and I don’t think she did wear those always, I think those are just the clothes I have stuck in my memory, permanently, because as a child, those are the clothes I remember getting flour over her with when we baked, remembered burying my nose into to cry, or to laugh, or to be carried.
I can’t stand cooking, because inside my rib cage, my heart is still in two. The string has woven the two pieces together, but they’re not quite mended, not quite fixed; all it takes is a jerk on the strings holding them together, and I blow apart.
And remembering, slowly, as I clean up after a meal, that my mother never got a chance to teach me, to really teach me to cook, and that I never got a chance to cook for her, is enough, ever time, to tug on my heartstrings.
I love you, mama. Happy Mother’s Day for this Saturday.