The first food I ever learned to make was a scrambled egg in the microwave. I was probably about four years old. My mom gently taught me how to crack the egg into a bowl, use a fork to break up the yolk, and tear up slices of individually wrapped American cheese into the bowl. We used an old, ugly microwave with a dial that wasn’t really very precise at all instead of buttons. She told me to set it to about 1 minute and in approximately 60 seconds I had made my first meal. My mom used to call eggs “nature’s fast food.”
For most of my childhood I didn’t really need to know how to cook anything beyond eggs. My lovely, good Jewish mother would always make sure we had snacks, that there was always food in the fridge, and that we had a good lunch and dinner. She always made time for food. I think it’s the best way she knows to take care of people, plus I know that she loves to feed people. I was so lucky to have her.
I would “help” my mom bake all the time. My mom had been compiling recipes into books since before I was born and I would sit on the counter and gaze at the tattered, stained pages of cookbooks that had been flipped through over and over, not yet old enough to comprehend my mother’s beautiful, messy script. I would lick the spoon when she wasn’t looking, sweet, sticky chocolatey brownie batter or just plain butter and sugar before she even added the egg. I grew up with home-baked cakes, brownies, cookies, bread, sweet scents engulfing me and the heat of the oven spreading throughout the house. Every time it snowed you can bet my mom would be making cookies.
Years later, I was about 14 years old and my parents were out for dinner. I decided I wanted to make muffins. Though of course at this point I knew how to read, my mom’s script is still difficult to comprehend at times, and this was one of those times. The recipe called for cream of tartar, which I had never heard of before, and I swear I thought I needed cream of “tantan.” I couldn’t find it anywhere. I didn’t know what it was. I had stupidly already started the recipe before checking to ensure I had all the ingredients, so I began worriedly texting my mom.
“mom whats cream of tantan? or tartan maybe? do we have it?”
“i cant find it anywhere”
In hindsight, of course, that was not only annoying, but she was probably busy and I was interrupting her. After ten minutes of anxiously waiting she responded with “Do you mean cream of tartar? We should have some”
Checking the spice cabinet (which my mother had cleverly organized alphabetically) this time with the correct name in mind, I quickly found cream of tartar. My quest to make muffins was back on track. “oh found it thank you” I texted to my mother.
The muffins came out mediocre. I probably got the proportions wrong. When my parents came home to the scent of warm muffins, though, my mom told me that that was the first time in 20 years that she had come home to something freshly baked. The pride and happiness that filled me from the thought of giving someone else that pleasure through food got me hooked on cooking. Nothing makes me happier than feeding others. It’s the best way I know to take care of people.