Noth­ing Beats Mum’s Cook­ing

mailife - - Contents - Words and photos by LANCE SEETO

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

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