Just letting you know: My mom is the best cook.
It’s not only the food she makes, that makes me smile, but also the joy my mom shows throughout the whole cooking process. When I was young, she taught my sister and me how to be flexible, calm and imaginative in (and out of) the kitchen. She uses her instincts to boost or balance flavor, add a pinch of this or a dash of that. But the flavor she uses most is… love. The love she uses to make all this lovely food.
Every year she happily makes a delicious meal for our Christmas party. Her cooking is homey, warm and soothing. She is still ready to serve soup when we are feeling sick, pancakes on the weekends, and family dinners each night we are at home. During the exams, she pampered us with hot chocolate milk and dessert. Growing up, dinner was a time to relax and it took us for 30 minutes out of our busy schedules to just enjoy each other, and the food, of course. There was always joy around the food and laughter and discussions around the table.
Now that I’m living in Ghent during the week, I’m trying to incorporate the lessons I learned from watching my mom in the kitchen. I still call her with cooking questions: “Hi SOS Mama, I’ve got a little question for you” :How do I make that delicious red cherry sauce that goes with the cherries and the meatballs? How do I make a perfect béchamel sauce? What was your recipe again for pancakes? …
When I was a child, my favourite books were cooking books (okay, and I must admit that I also liked the Marc De Bel books, but that has nothing to do with this blog post, aight). I remember one book, namely Tiny in the kitchen. I L.O.V.E.D that book, all the recipes, the nice pictures, when I think about that book, a touch of nostalgia comes over me. I tried to find it this morning but apparently I lost it. If you really, really don’t know what present to buy me, just give this little book, it would make me so happy ;)
The lessons I learned from my mom also go beyond spices and culinary tips. Cooking was her way of bringing our family together, building relationships and creating memories. (Okay, maybe you think now: Hey, you’ve just written half of a Hallmark Mother’s Day card”, but I must admit that this is all true.) Last week, my grandmother made us happy with a visit. My sister and I went to the town with her to drink some coffee and when we sat down, she started talking about how life was when she was our age, about how she met my grandfather, and so many more.
When you know my family and me, you know that we talk a lot and that we love to eat. Most of our talks take place around the table. In Spanish, the word sobremesa means, literally, to stay at the table. Culturally, the word implies the ongoing conversations that continue after meals and create deeper relationships between people around the table. This is what my mom created and this is what I want to emulate in the future in my own home.