Today, I wanted to reflect on what mother’s cooking has meant to me, and to so many others who have been nourished daily by the food lovingly prepared by our mothers and mother-figures.
All of us have been nourished and nurtured by our mothers, even before we take our first gasps of breath on this earth. Right from the very point we are conceived and as we grow as foetuses inside our mother’s wombs, we are provided with nutrition and oxygen through the umbilical cord that connects us to our mother’s placenta.
After our arrival on earth, we suckle at our mother’s breasts and the milk from it nourishes us until our tiny bodies are ready to take on the challenge of solid foods. Up to this point, mother nature places mothers at the centre of a baby’s universe, completely and utterly dependent on their mothers for sustenance.
Our bodies continue to grow, from childhood to adolescence and we rely on our mother’s cooking to get us through the school days, the weekend activities, the night time studies, the after-school munchies and the birthday party meals (not to underplay the role of fathers play in this process too). And if it isn’t our mothers, then perhaps it is our grandmothers, aunties, neighbours or family friends that come into the picture when our mothers are not comfortable cooks, are busy with work, are unwell or struggling, or have left home or left this earth.
For many, a home-cooked meal is synonymous with our mums, and the love and effort they put into the food they prepare knowing that it will nourish us one way or the other. If on one weeknight we return home as parents ourselves, her food conjures up memories of the past and of the ignorant blisses of our childhood. If we have been away from for too long, her food reminds us of the safety, security and comfort of home. If we are sick or unwell, her cooking heals our ailments just as bandages and plasters heal wounds and broken bones. If we have had a bad day at school or work, her food soothes bruised egos and dejected souls alike. This is the reach a mother’s cooking has, no matter how simple or elaborate the meal she makes.
I have been blessed to have various mother-figures in my life, and I am grateful for them all, especially after losing my own mother in my late teens and missing her terribly to this day. In cooking and having a meal with me, these women have shared their roots, their cultures and their stories. Whether it be the traditional food preparations of my ancestors as shared by my godmother from our ancestral village, the unique fusion of Chinese and Indian cuisines in a Malaysian dish as shared by my neighbour in her kitchen not too far from mine or the intricacies of making melt-in-the-mouth Pakistani shammi kebabs as shared by my aunty. Thank you for nurturing and nourishing, healing and soothing, inspiring and invoking; I hope, one day, to do the same myself and be on the giving end rather than the receiving one.