In the ceremonious birthday week of my mother, I’ve come to reflect on her most distinct love language—food. My mother is a leading exemplar of the argument that food is, in fact, the sixth love language, posed next to touch, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and words of affirmation. Elegant and poised, she softens our hearts with beautiful meals that are never served on a cold plate. However similar, this love language label is not to be confused with “acts of service.” Her cooking is to be enjoyed as a collection of metaphorical words in its own right, strung together as an equally magnificent sentence of affection.
There is something unique about food that defines itself to be a new dimension in expressing love. It is an indescribable, all-encompassing experience, when performed, shared, and enjoyed. There was once a time when I was young, aflame by my own feminist ideology, and holding onto a slight resentment of cooking, hating comments that combine a woman’s worth with the quality of her cuisine. Pulling away from the kitchen in fear of becoming tailored to an ill-fitting, pre-modern identity, I disserviced myself in a way, inhibiting the commencement of my favorite hobby. Now, learning to reweave the conversation, I have replaced the idea that cooking is a responsibility with the idea that what I produce in the close corners of my kitchen carries a derivative of affection that I am not forced to, but desire to share with others. It is expressive and filling, in more than one way.
I thank my mother for teaching me to love cooking and how to show love through cooking. Her plated meals, and her beautiful glide through the kitchen, radiates a passionate warmth. Despite the common linkage between cooking and motherhood, I love to see how she adopts it as her personally chosen language of love for everyone she meets. Now, living apart from my mother, I aim to recreate the tender atmosphere she nurtures in our home. Every Sunday morning witnesses me dancing in the kitchen in harmony with the percussion of my spatula on the counter. The symphony of the hour complemented by the sizzle of butter in the pan and, of course, the quintessential and corny accompaniment of Jack Johnson’s “Banana Pancakes” playing its soft tune in the background. Palms down on the counter, slowly tapping my fingers, I await the browning edges of gooey batter, perfectly content in my patience. Where restlessness finds me almost everywhere else—grocery store aisles, books with elongated plots, and slow traffic in Chestnut Hill—cooking pancakes pauses time and pleases me with a sense of peace as I think of others’ pending smiles and satisfied stomachs.
From all this reflection, my current penny thought is this: of course, you should make an effort to cook for others if you wish, but also let others cook for you. The catch is that you should make sure to sit and watch. There is a perfect mutualism present in this event. Keeping my mother company as she prepares a meal for me (and vice versa) arrives in synonymy with a sentiment of love. I’ve spent too many evenings tucked away while someone else is making a meal for me, missing out on the unmatched experience of seeing someone show me affection in their favorite frame.