Similarly, when I was growing up, sometimes I was way into the dinner my mother made and sometimes I wasn’t. For a whole bunch of reasons. How robustly I responded to the meal just wasn’t a statement about my mother’s worth. It just wasn’t. I’d be wise to remember that too. I’d also be wise to remember that it’s not reasonable to ask that family members be disinvested enough in my cooking to not notice or care that we’ve been eating on the fly for days, but so invested that they are way into whatever I might cook whenever I might cook it.
Another issue for me is that my daughter eats very differently from me. She focuses on organic foods regularly and eats very little meat—pretty much only chicken. Somehow I manage at times to make this about me, even though I know better. She lives on campus and not in our house most typically, with some exception on breaks and an occasional night here and there. So her diet and my cooking don’t clash regularly. And really at this point in her maturity she’s very good about not judging or snubbing, and I cook a lot of dishes—vegetarian or chicken dishes—that she enjoys. So most of the time there is no intersection of her ways and mine. But sometimes there inevitably will be. I find myself too invested in her food choices, turning them into a statement about or an evaluation of my choices that I then need to care much about. Recently I offered, when she and her brother went to their dad’s for the holiday, to double up on the ham and bean soup I was making and send her over there with a pot of it, given that her dad’s job on the road and brief stint in town would probably mean he’d have no real plan for their meal. She graciously accepted the offer. Later, I realized she would have absolutely no interest in this dinner and noted that she never said anything about this fact. When I talked with her about it and offered to make a separate pot of soup without the ham, she was again very gracious and indicated that she had thought about saying “You won’t be offended if I don’t eat it, then?” But decided to say nothing. I told her that I was embarrassed to say that I probably would have handled that question badly, feeling judged and taking offense needlessly. I told her that I will work on that, and that when I falter she should know that these are my issues and not hers and that she shouldn’t have to work so hard to protect me from them, that she shouldn’t feel bad about eating what works for her, just so I don’t have to feel bad about eating and cooking what works for me. I should comment here on all this “guilt” between women about eating and about how culturally entrenched it is for many women and how useless and debilitating it all is, though no less prevalent. My son and his dad are not having this conversation, I’ll wager.
So one of my goals for the year is to be more appropriately invested in food, in part by being healthily detached from how engaged each family member is with it, and by separating their responses from my sense of worth. I must say it feels funny writing this because it seems like something that someone else would be writing and not me; I fancy myself rather on top of this issue, perhaps compared to women who are similarly invested but dealing with the issues everyday because they cook everyday. I guess I thought that giving myself the freedom from persistent meal prep meant freedom from all the psychological baggage that many woman associate with food and cooking. But alas not.