Do It Yourself/Hang In There Baby, 2020
At my age, my mother had two kids. Two years from now she’d be divorced. In four years she’d be diagnosed with cancer, and in eight years she’d lose her home.
When moving her out, I found a collaged cookbook she made in the early 80s. Newspaper clippings of recipes she wanted to try, magazine cut outs of foods she dreamed of adorned the inside of this book neatly titled “Do It Yourself”. This book was her blueprint for the start of her family.
Later on, sounds of sad songs and the buzzing of the television permeated the kitchen as we’d sit over the forgotten dreams of Lobster Cutlets and Chicken Piccata. I’d spend years following trying to decipher what my mother really meant when she tortured me with her Seafood Surprise and over seasoned Pancit.
Now, far away from the people I love, I go back to my mother’s cookbook and the fantasy of a stable and easy life where we are taken care of and in turn are appreciated for the care we take of others. In a time when my friends are starting families, I think about the pursuit of my dreams alone. My mother and I are not where we thought we’d be in our lives, and food has now become a way of disengaging from that harsh reality. Reading labels, budgeting, and balancing, are things for me to obsess about so I can run away from the real problem, which is that I’m terribly lonely and I miss home.
I know that if I add a little more than a teaspoon of salad dressing, that I won’t die, I know these meals won’t last forever, I know have friends I can call, and more importantly I know that I am not my mother. But it’s in the Kale Salads and sad ballads that I begin to see our similarities and a different connection with her that is beginning to form.