Last week, I found myself cooking tofu for the first time. Sure, I’ve eaten it before, but it was my first foray into making it myself. As I was frying it up, I began to think about how cooking in my family has evolved over the generations.
It’s actually been longer than a week that I’ve been thinking about this. About a month ago, I visited my mother’s mother, and was fed her best fare: sloppy joes with canned green beans, pot roast with mashed potatoes, and hamburger and onion pizza from the local pizzeria.
Oh, and don’t forget the canned mandarins as the fruit serving. Ugh.
This is the typical menu when visiting grandma. My grandfather is an old school, meat and potatoes guy and my grandmother is an old school, eat on a budget, cook. I would never tell my grandmother that I can’t stand sloppy joes and that canned fruit and vegetables give me the heebie-jeebies. I am grateful that she invites me into her home and feeds me, horrific 1940s food and all. But, it’s also a good thing I’ve never officially become a vegetarian. I’d starve to death each visit.
Then there’s my mother. Her cooking is a vast departure from canned beans and pot roast. I grew up on frozen or fresh vegetables. Lots of fish. A healthy dose of meat, but an equally healthy does of vegetarian options. I love my mother’s cooking. I love her kitchen. She has every gadget imaginable, and all sorts of fabulous recipes stored away from years of cook books and cooking magazines. Her kitchen is the place we gather on a regular weeknight, chatting about our lives, or stand around in at holidays, munching on bruschetta and sipping the latest cocktail concoction she’s found in Martha Stewart Living.
She never really taught me how to cook, a Type A who always preferred to handle things herself, but I still learned all I know about food and cooking from her.
That doesn’t mean I’m a culinary whiz. When I first started out, macaroni and cheese was my only culinary feat. I was a master at boiling pasta and throwing some cheddar cheese on top. But that was about it. In fact, my lack of cooking ability was just one in a litany of reasons that my old boyfriend called it quits when I thought we’d be headed down the aisle someday.
If only he could see me now. Frying tofu. Testing out homemade cream sauces. Cooking with chorizo instead of hamburger meat. Trying things my mother never did and her mother never thought of. Finding joy in making dinner for DD and having him enjoy it.
I don’t plan on being Susie Homemaker like my mom. But I do plan on making a home — and a kitchen — in my own, modern way.