This is not about prejudice neither is it about partiality. These days I am rather indulged by many stories my mother and I share. It is not to make fun at anyone, but such chit-chat is therapeutic. And it keeps us both amused, for her lack of social media exposure with food eeriness and my otherwise lockdown burdened monotony. Besides my father and husband, I’ve taken creative liberties to generalize the rest.
These comical plots are from both men and women who exhibit disregard for food or take the front seat in wasting it. And in fact, I am going to share my own and what I continue to learn. In all these stories, there is a unique moral. Never realized that “food for thought” is very impactful unto itself. I am just indebted that we have food on the table with very minimal waste.
For once, you won’t hear about the husband because he is not only quite the chef any home desires sans the cleaning, but his improvisations are a treat to the sore eyes. To the point that my mother has become his most zealous enthusiast and connoisseur. While I extend my fangirl appreciation by doing the dishes, the best way to a woman’s heart is also through the stomach.
My father was our biggest cheerleader, relishing my mother’s cooking and later mine. But he didn’t even know how to make chai. Despite knowing his limitations in gastronomic dexterity, he offered to make scrambled eggs one fine day. I am not sure what he thought it was, but he used nutmeg powder. His determination was laudable, but implementation was imperfect rendering the dish unpalatable. Yet, all of us quietly ate without throwing it away. My mother and I joke to this day that, without his catastrophes, our gratitude for good food wouldn’t acquire such magnanimity.
We are also blessed to have men in our lives known to not waste or disrespect the food or the maker. I’ve come across so many people whose vagueness or domination over others when it comes demanding food preparations made me cringe. Yet, I’ve seen parents, siblings and wives put up with this idiocy with a smile. When everything seems fine to the rest of us, for these maniacs, the food is chewy or the spices are intense or it is not warm enough or there is too much of one color or there is no salt per their liking, they seem to disregard the food just like they do to people.
A certain professional chef I know sweats a lot. Even though rumors of their hygiene were floating around, I never imagine it would interfere with the food-making. However, I’ve avoided them every single time after I fell sick. Abstinence from their proficient culinary skills seemed like a better choice than throwing away food regaled by their saline.
When I was a kid, I used to dread my mother’s relatives’ visits. One such had the sharpest of smell sense for salt. I’ve seen so many that can differentiate condiments but never someone with such exclusive aptitude. Regardless, it was at no time the right balance for him. He would always complain about how my mother has still not learned to cook well. His plate however told a different story.
There was another one who was irrationally insolent. He never liked my grandmother and by that virtue anything she made. She was an amazing cook. So, when he visited once, we tricked him that my mother made the food. Despite all the taunts, my grandmother had patience to feed her heckler. He would relish and slurp his fingers. One day, after he enjoyed his meal, we told him who really made the food. He never apologized for being a jerk, but he didn’t come by ever after.
Long time ago, I had coworkers over for dinner and for some reason they came without their spouses. The batch of red chili I used that day was not as red. I avoid this one gentleman like pestilence because he wouldn’t stop humiliating how unappealing to the eyes my cookeries were. For the longest time, I would be paranoid inviting anyone else home.
This one aunt who is in my gene pool has OCD. Who doesn’t? I do too. She has this routine of serving herself from the center of any dish. Then, she would eat only the center of what she has on her plate. It would make sense if someone doesn’t want to eat a pizza cornice but what she does feels sacrilege to me.
Another aunt’s love for her adult child is so immense that she doesn’t care about anyone else sitting at the same table. I’ve always cautioned my mother to eat something at home before she went to their place. Because she’d serve my mother the foot befitting a toddler while her adult child would have a meal worthy of a glutton.
When I was a kid, despite being in a double-income household, there was never a lavish spread. My mother did what met the basic nutrient standards. And there was nothing that we would waste. These days, I see parents catering to kids’ diktat and even being a garbage can for their leftovers. On top of that some pious mothers ward off evil by taking a handful of food, waving around their ‘beautiful’ kids, and throwing the food in trash. Yet, no one remembers millions of kids who would die to have that discarded food, evil or not. Not to forget the idiots who waste food in the name of offerings that could feed a village.
There would be many more stories that could write. The learning from these is poignant and compelling. When I first came to the United States, there were three days where I had to live on water and nothing else. Even before that, my grandmother and mother taught me to be thankful of food that we eat, never to waste any, and most of all be respectful no matter what is served. Because they are so many in parts of the world where people are dying of starvation every minute. And there is nothing they could do about it.
It is, therefore, a huge responsibility on us who have access to good food, clean water to not misuse or abuse that honor and those who make it scrumptious for us. Even during days, when food might be a little overcooked or bland, unless it inedible, there is not a single reason in this world to be anything other than being most grateful.