By AJ Morris
In the early days of self-imposed isolation, my family and I were having dinner when my dad said, “it’s been nice having AJ home, we barely used to see her.” It wasn’t a dig; it was an observation. Many an evening I spent out, eating something subpar even though a hearty meal waited at home for me.
Two and a half months later, when my family and I sit at the dinner table pondering what to cook the next day, it comforts me. Is someone craving something specific? Is there a dish we haven’t eaten in a while? Should we make dessert? In all of this, I understand the calming feeling that comes with making a meal.
"Of course, I could use Google for answers, or new ideas but I know I will never get this extended, uninterrupted time with my family again."
It’s one feeling to cook for sustenance as I did during my postgrad, and another to cook knowing that you can find everything you might want or need in a kitchen at your disposal. A temperature probe to check the roast chicken is done; a perfect dish among others to bake those chunky cinnamon rolls or even a pestle and mortar for when a recipe demands ground cloves. The reason I have all of these things is that my dad can figuratively and sometimes literally, bring work home. A chef for decades and thus my culinary Google.
This is the most time I’ve spent in the kitchen with my dad since my childhood when we’d bake together, and unsurprisingly only eating food doesn’t teach you much about it. Fortunately, these lessons aren’t just from my dad, the more I hear the passion and excitement from my parents about food in all of its forms, the more I realise this is another space for me to explore creativity, and to experiment. I can throw an unconventional combination of spices into a pot, and maybe it’s not innovative to the world, but it’s groundbreaking for me. Cooking or baking in the kitchen with my parents now reminds me that I didn’t like cooking in their presence. Being alone, I could make mistakes and not have a frowning figure nearby. Now I know they were only trying to help and I’m taking in as much knowledge as I can.
I can read a recipe aloud and my dad’s two cents might save me from a mess or another failed attempt. When I’m at the stove cooking mince for a Bolognese, my mama might stroll by and remind me where the bay leaves are. Of course, I could use Google for answers, or new ideas but I know I will never get this extended, uninterrupted time with my family again. It’s a privilege to be able to live with parents who know food. Parents who have learned from each other, parents who cook dishes with muscle memory and always encouraged me to try new things. I’m still trying to cook new things and my muscle memory isn’t there yet; but I have a feeling that once this is over and I crave food, it won’t matter what it is, it’ll just have to be a homecooked meal.