I’ve given up cooking. I no longer prepare meals for my husband, my sons, or myself, unless you count pouring granola into a bowl of yogurt. I had planned to do this when the youngest ones went off to college, once I was no longer legally obligated to keep my children fed. But early this summer, with my oldest son home from college and the younger two wrapping up a low-energy year of hybrid learning, I decided to go on strike two years early.
I used to enjoy cooking, the more elaborate and exotic the recipe the better. But after twenty years of preparing homemade meals for people whose responses ranged from lips clamped shut to howling tantrums to suggestions on how I could make the dish better next time, and a year-and-a-half of pandemic panic cooking and preparing far too many meals for far too many people, the culinary arts had lost their appeal. It was time to pass the sustenance torch on to the next generation. So in the middle of June, I pulled out a white-board calendar and markers, instructing each kid to pick two days in the upcoming week, plan two meals, and write a list of ingredients they needed from the grocery store.
One of my sixteen-year-old twins took three cooking classes this past school year. The other one watches Gordon Ramsey and Babish videos obsessively. My oldest son has worked at a store with a sandwich counter for more than four years. They’re all more than capable of putting together a meal, and they dove into the first two weeks of cooking independence with enthusiasm. The next week was greeted with a little more foot-dragging, their recipe ideas leaning more toward the “things from the store you can heat up” end of the spectrum, in contrast to their made-from-scratch meals of the first week. “Aren’t you ever going to cook again?” they asked me.
A recurring theme that runs through many, if not most, of the essays, stories, and poems we publish here at Literary Mama is the passage of time, the sweet but melancholy constant that is change in our children and ourselves. At each stage of development, we say goodbye to some difficult or delightful aspect of our children and look forward, with mixed excitement and trepidation, to what comes next. For all the challenges that teenagers pose, the fact that they can cook is a definite bonus.
I have no illusions that having three built-in chefs will be a permanent condition. Eventually my oldest son will go back to college, the younger two will get busy with their junior year of high school. I will get tired of eating the kind of food teenage males consider appetizing or tired of eating dinner at 8:30 p.m. Even now, a small forest of Swiss chard, which my kids would never consider cooking, beckons to me from the garden. I’ll have to return to the kitchen sooner than later. But I will enjoy this respite for as long as it lasts.
I hope you enjoy this edition of Literary Mama, filled as always with sweet and melancholy stages of motherhood and the beautiful awareness that motherhood is change.