Nothing Beats Mum’s Cooking
Let me tell you something that shouldn’t surprise you - between every restaurant I visit, every delicious food discovery I enjoy and share, every image I upload to Facebook and every tweet... I still crave for some home cooked meal prepared by my mother. Nothing beats a yummy heart-filled home cooked meal prepared by the one person who knows and loves you unconditionally. I wasn’t the angel of a child that I could have been, but no matter what time I eventually got home, there was always a home cooked meal on the stove. It didn’t matter that dad may have cooked it (he’s also a great cook!), I know that it was always mother that made sure he didn’t forget. I’m sure there’s something your mum makes, or used to make, that you still crave for every once in a while. If you ask me what my favourite food is that mum cooks, geez, that’s a tough one. How can you single out just one dish when she cooked for my entire adult life when I was at home, and continues to do when I get back to Australia. Is it her handmade dumplings (fried, baked or steamed versions), Sunday roasts, almond biscotti biscuits, lemongrass chicken skewers or her boozy Christmas pudding or trifle? I really can’t decide. Our mums, aunties and grandmothers all know why they sweat nearly everyday in a hot kitchen. For the maternal side of the family, food is an expression of unconditional love. In every morsel and in every bite of her home cooking is something you rarely get eating out at a restaurant – L.O.V.E. In Fiji’s cultural traditions, the kitchen is mostly a woman’s domain. It is their kingdom; it is their chiefdom. Make a mess and look out! Thankfully that attitude is slowly changing with the next generation of men and boys wanting to learn to cook and feed themselves. This change is long overdue, especially if you want to give your son a head start in the kitchen as a career or just to teach him how to cook for himself. Food plays a critical role in a family household. It’s not just for nourishment, but it help binds the family together. When you smell mum’s cooking at home, you just know and feel the love. Preparing and serving food is an act of kindness and caring. When creative real estate agents try to sell a house they frequently spray cinnamon throughout to give it that homey
feeling. Private home sellers can be even craftier and bake a delicious cake or bread loaf just as prospective buyers begin walking through the house. The kitchen is often the warmest place in the home, the gathering spot, and the centre of family life. This is no accident. The warmth that exudes from the kitchen is not just oven heat, it’s the warmth of family and closeness. It’s the warmth of love, with food the vehicle and mum’s cooking the magnet that draws us home. It is not food in isolation that is an expression of love. It is not food on grocery shelves or at an eatery. It is the food prepared by mothers (and fathers). It is food that is used to create a home, to create connection, to create celebration, and of course to create a family. I’ll share another family secret with you; my mum has more than three refrigerators and freezers stocked with her home cooking! Whenever guests drop over, her instinct is to feed them, even if they weren’t invited for a feed. It’s not because they are, God forbid, poor and starving. It’s because that’s how mums express friendship, hospitality and probably a bit of bravado thrown in as well. Many mums love to boast how their recipe is best and may lightening strike you if you say otherwise! I miss the old days when someone new moved into the neighbourhood, and she would bake a cake that I’d have to go and deliver. Holding her beautifully decorated cake or a tray of her handcrafted Asian dumplings, I’d knock on the door and say “My mum says welcome to the neighbourhood!” Some people may make the mistake of thinking my mum must have nothing better to do or spends too much time in the kitchen. They’d be dead wrong. Our family home still feels nourished, warmed and cared for. Her friends and grandchildren also feel loved and valued. So in the month of May when mum gets that one day off cooking, don’t go out and eat loveless food; make her something special yourself. To avoid her watching your cooking style with critical eyes, get someone to take her out to get her hair done, buy a new dress or go shopping for new kitchen tools. Just make sure you leave the kitchen exactly as she left it! And whatever you cook, don’t forget that special ingredient - love.
Mum’s cooking ...homecooked Sunday roast with Yorkshire puddings
Mothers Day lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze restaurant
Lemongrass skewers - painstakenly made by someone’s hand with passion
Anything sweet and homebaked is ideal for mum’s special treat
LANCE SEETO is an award-winning international food writer, author, television presenter and executive chef based on Mana Island Fiji. Follow his culinary adventures in Fiji at www.lanceseeto.com