I remember in my 4th grade class, we each had to write a descriptive essay (a lesson on adjectives and imagery) about what we ate for dinner the night before and then after writing it out, we had to read it in front of the class. I felt very uneasy about this assignment because while my classmates were eating meatloaf or chicken pot pie, I was eating Indian vegetarian foods that my mom cooked, like "rotli, daal, bhath, shaak"(translation "flat bread, lentils, rice, vegetable side dish"), and too ashamed to say it or talk about it in front of the class. And I was dreading having to explain the omission of meat. I was the only kid with immigrant parents in that class and back in 1988, there wasn't so much awareness about ethnic foods or international cultures and therefore, there wasn't much sensitivity to those things, as there are now. So what did I do? I wrote about my delicious spaghetti and meatballs dinner. Of course, I had never had spaghetti with meatballs so my descriptive essay sucked and probably included phrases like "curly noodle" and "round meat thingies". My mom always taught me to always be proud of my heritage, but I never told my mom about that incident.
My mom was a stay at home mom from my entire K-12 life. I hated it. Why can't my mom go to work like everyone else's mom? I wanted to come home to an empty house after school and watch Tiny Tunes or General Hospital (don't judge my broad range of interests) instead of being asked to drink milk or start on my homework. What I overlooked was the wonderful welcome I got when I came home from school. I remember when I came home from school, she would make piping hot french fries perfectly seasoned with salt and pepper. On rainy days, she would make chaa and bhajiya which is hot chai spiced tea and deep fried savory chickpea and fenugreek dough balls. We would have these in the backyard and watch the rain....and then she'd tell me to drink milk and go do my homework.
Once I was in 6th grade, Mom never packed my lunch. Never. She would be awake at 5:30am every day, but she would not pack my lunch. She would WATCH me pack my lunch. While that was mean, in hindsight, it's still mean, but it was her backhanded way of teaching me time management in the kitchen. I complained about this for years, and on the very last day of 12th grade, I woke up and she packed that one lunch for me. I'll never forget that. A great example of "under promise and over deliver".
As high-schoolers, my sister and I would have to come home and prep our usual Indian dinner, kneading the flatbread dough, soaking the rice, preparing the pressure cooker for lentils... Why are we doing this while our friends are at the mall???? My sister and I are 4 years apart, so once she went off to college (a freedom I was so prematurely thirsty for), I was sous chef with Mom for the next 4 years.
My mom strategically arranged for 8 years of child labor in the kitchen. Smart Woman. At the time, I never gave mom brownie points for the great heart-to-heart talks we would have at the stove and sink between the "I hate you"s and "You don't let me do anything"s.
Mom made it all about Family and Food and the Kitchen. She would learn western diets, making broccoli and cauliflower casserole or bean and cheese enchiladas. She'd make cheesecakes and chocolate chip cookies. We ate together ALWAYS. We occasionally watched Wheel of Fortune while dining. And on Fridays, we'd have Pizza Picnics. We would have a picnic in our living room and order pizza, drink soda, and watch NBCs TGIF. And if it was movie night, we'd have chips, queso, and salsa. She never took "Me Time" or "Girl Time" or "Date night with Dad" or "Spa Day" or "Shopping Time" or "Getting My Nails Done". While she ran a tight ship, her heart swells and overflows with selfless unconditional love. My mom made so many sacrifices and pinched pennies to give my sister and I the life she always dreamed of.
Ps - I'm writing in past tense because these are memories, not because she is no longer. I'm very thankful that she's still around...trying to find my "blob" on the Internet.
I got off of the plane yesterday around midnight, and waited for 45 minutes for the parking shuttle bus. It was cold, wet and rainy. I could really go for some chaa and bhajiyas.
Mom, you rock. (Much more than rabbit food.)
***If you have a favorite food memory with your mom or mother-like figure, please share it in the comments and make sure you share these memories with her on Mother's Day this Sunday. ***