I wrote the first few chapters of “How to Eat Bittermelons and Brownies – Recipes from Philosopher Mom,” in anticipation of my first-born, Amani’s college graduation. As I prepare for my last-born, Atiya’s high school graduation this school year, I thought it would be therapeutic for me to add to the previous cookbook. In a way this is an ongoing story of grown and change. I imagine adding more, as more degrees, moves, homes, partners, life events and unfortunate losses are added to our collective lives. More than anything in the world, I enjoy mothering these two strong, smart, kind women. This is my way of loving them as they grow beyond the reaches of my wings.
I’ll share my journey here with you. Here is the preface from a few years ago:
“Amani cries everyday during lunch,” said the preschool teacher. Strange for a kid who loves to eat, I thought. Sensing my disbelief, Mrs. Mala asked that I visit during lunchtime to help solve the mystery. The next day I hid behind a curtain while the four-year olds were served lunch, as if waiting for frogs to sing or something magical to happen. It didn’t. Amani didn’t cry.
Later when asked, little Amani explained that Mrs. Mala wanted her to finish her lunch everyday. The thought of having to finish food she didn’t enjoy made her cry and she was scared of Mrs. Mala’s disapproval.
Later the “scary” teacher gave her two bracelets and all was forgiven.
We have all been at a table feeling forced to finish something we don’t enjoy. Whether the force comes from a looming authority, a sense of guilt or a sense of civility. Maybe with self-awareness that feeling of force, inevitably experienced, can diminish into either willful acceptance or rejection, instead of anxiety. Food as a way to digest and share our days becomes an emotional, physical and social barometer of our lives.
As my little Amani graduates college and enters adulthood, sometimes life will serve her dishes she doesn’t like or want to finish, literally and metaphorically. I won’t be there hiding behind the curtain to support her choice. Instead, I send her into the world with recipes about eating life with awareness, responsibility and joy.
Amani, my baby, may you always eat well.