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Campaign for Culinary Independence

Posted on: October 4th, 2011 by Nzinga

To any recent empty-nesters, take it from me: your child is living off ramen noodles and Reese’s Pieces.

As a fairly recent college grad, I have been living away from home for over a year.  Living on my own in New York City has always been a dream of mine. But, despite the perks of autonomy, there are plenty of things I miss about my mother’s house – particularly her cooking. The thought of cooking in college never crossed my mind because I never had access to a kitchen.  Suddenly, I have all the equipment to recreate a family dinner but no family to recreate it.

The rude awakening for me was realizing my mother would no longer be available to make my favorite foods for dinner.  I panicked!  I truly believed my mom was the only one capable of making her dishes.  There were no manuals to tell her how much of this thing to mix with that thing to make the whole thing taste good, and she didn’t have a mother of her own who could have passed some culinary traditions on to her.  In my mind, some divine power broke the culinary mold after making her, and I could never hope to boil a cob of corn as skillfully as she.

Everyone thinks their parent is the best cook ever, not necessarily because it’s true, but because your mom and/or dad was your first favorite chef whose restaurant just happened to be located in your dining room.  You had no choice but to love the menu. To me, no matter how good someone else’s steamed broccoli or sautéed spinach may be, I think “it’s just not my mom’s.”

Since she only lived one state away, I would go home on a monthly basis to pick up a jar filled with my favorite homemade tahini dressing and a batch of brussels sprouts to last me a couple days. But after seeing how quickly she whipped together these meals, she lost a bit of her majesty, and I considered my potential to do what she does.  In my next visit, instead of dashing home to grab prepared food, I came home to learn how to make my most favorite dishes for myself.  The cooking class was long overdue and a wonderful bonding experience for my mother and me.

If your college student has access to a kitchen, teach him/her some of your simpler recipes to take back to school.  One of my most favorite housewarming gifts from my mother was stocking my refrigerator!  Take a day trip over to your kid’s new place and teach a class on how to make an old favorite. Well prepared meals are sorely missed when adulthood finally kicks in, but you can soften the blow a bit by showing us a thing or two.  And you don’t have to worry about losing your appeal: it’s likely that our version will never be as good as the real thing.