Whenever I hear someone say, “My mother is the best cook in the world,” my first reaction is invariably, irritation. I know! I am supposed to admire the deep love the mother and child (90% of the time it is the sons who make such declarations) and then be in awe of the said mother’s cooking. But for logical me, such sweeping statements don’t impress.
How can anyone claim anything to be the best without having tasted at least a hundred other samples? Sure, I understand that a mother’s cooking grows on the child. So much that the same child who complained endlessly when young, is ready to confer this great title as an adult.
Understandably, most people are dismayed when I share my views about this topic. A mother’s love and all kinds of expressions of it, is supposedly sacred and must not be belittled. And that is not my intention at all. (I do believe that a mother’s love is supremely selfish, but that is a topic for another post!) Now that I am a mother myself, I feel, I can justifiably express myself.
As a child, food was not central to my existence. My family loved to do many things together and we did not allow the eating and making of food to be the primary activity of the day. But eat we did. And my lunch box always interested my friends because of the sheer variety. There are many of my mother’s classic recipes which still bring back such fond memories. But my relationship with my mother is a lot more than just food.
And that is my argument. It is not the food per se. It is the memories associated with it which make it so glorious. The taste of one meal lasts just a few minutes. It is the memory of the taste and the entire experience around the eating that lingers. But good cooking must be judged without taking into account our relationship with the cook.
My daughter gives great feedback about food. She tells me when she loves it and thanks me for it. She also tells me if she likes what someone else makes a little bit better. I am just glad that her taste buds work independently of her love for me. I also know each time she gives a compliment, that it is truly genuine. For me, that is priceless.
It is easy for sensory experience to replicate an old feeling and make you feel various emotions. You may feel love, joy, security, togetherness etc. I completely understand that.
Yesterday I had adai. It is like a savory lentil and rice pancake. I had it with jaggery and home collected fresh cream. The combination was divine. I closed my eyes and was transported back to my childhood. To those lazy Sundays and the company of my darling sister and my lovely parents. I could hear the laughter and feel the joy. This seemed like the most delicious breakfast I had had in months.
And I thought, “My mother’s adais are the best!” Then I mentally tch tched myself!