My first cooking class was a big success. The chicken we cooked was marinated with fresh ground lemon, rosemary, and cloves of garlic. I crushed the garlic, stripped the rosemary leaves, and zested a lemon for the first time in my life. I can still smell the garlic wafting through the kitchen as a dozen students cooked the lemon garlic chicken.
The minute I got in the car with my mom I excitedly showed her what we made that day. We took our firsts bites of my food and I nervously looked at her as the combinations of flavor danced in my mouth. Her eyes lit up with excitement as we continued to dig into the food that I had just cooked. I knew at that moment my mother was proud of me.
“No need for us to go out for lunch on Saturdays for a while,” she told me with a smile. “You will provide us with lunch, Chef Megan.”
This became a weekly tradition for us. My mom would wait in the car for me anticipating what I would have for us for lunch every Saturday afternoon after my cooking class. I would rapidly and excitedly explain to her exactly how I cooked and what ingredients we would need if we wanted to cook it at home.
I always wanted to be like my mom. When I was growing up, her magnificent ability to cook anything and everything I asked for made me believe she was a super hero. I would stand in the kitchen whenever she was cooking and watch. Whenever she was close to finished she would designate me the taste tester and place a spoonful of the food or sauce and ask me what it needed. I loved it. I would sit around for however long it took just to hear her call my name from the kitchen, telling me it was time. She used to tell me that I always knew exactly what the food needed and that I had a real talent for tasting and noticing the tiniest of details.
Despite the praise I received, I desired to have a bigger role. I wanted to make her proud and cook just like her. I was around ten years old when I decided that I would take a cooking class. I would do anything to become a “food magician” like my mom.
I asked my friend to join me in the class and she gladly accepted. It was something interesting to do on Saturday mornings rather than lying around watching the same cartoons we’ve seen countless times. Instead we spent our Saturday mornings making flavorful bourbon chicken, fileting juicy peppercorn steak, and countless other interesting dishes.
During one of the last meetings of the class, things went a little differently. The instructor appeared and told the class that we would be cooking Stromboli from scratch.
“That’s interesting,” I said to my best friend. I became excited because Stromboli was something my mother had never made. I thought perhaps I could teach her something new for once.
We began by making the dough because it would take around 20-25 minutes to rise. When I began to combine the flour, salt, sugar, and the package of yeast together in warm water and oil I began to feel lightheaded. As I stirred in the yeast, I looked around the room in a panic. It was an odd feeling, like every other person in the room was moving in a slow motion replay. Under my fog, I dropped the spoon onto the stove with a clang and gripped onto the counter.
“What’s your issue?” My friend said laughing. She thought I was trying to be funny somehow.
Her voice felt so far away even though she was right in front of me. I began to panic, and I told her I felt lightheaded and I was going to go to the restroom to splash some cold water on my face.
I barely made it half way there when I slumped against the counter and everything became black.
I snapped out of it almost immediately, opening my eyes to my classmates surrounding me with panic on their faces. I spent the rest of the class sitting in the dining room area at a table with my head down, waiting for my mom to arrive. It was humiliating to me, as if failure was etched on my pale face for everyone to see. I would never be as good of a cook as my mother.
When my mother arrived, my friend handed me a white container. She told me she finished the Stromboli for me so I could eat lunch with my mother like I always do. I appreciated it, but the whole point of the class was to show my mom I could be just like her. Not have someone else cook my meal for me just like she did every single day.
And also to be quite honest I never wanted to look at Stromboli ever again.
It was at that moment I completely gave up on the idea of cooking like my “super mom”. Perhaps certain people are born to be amazing with food, but I was not one of the lucky ones. I finished out the last two weeks of the cooking class, but afterward I would no longer try so hard to cook. It was not that I was afraid to cook after passing out in the kitchen, but I realized I was only taking the cooking class to be like my mom.
I don’t believe that I enjoyed cooking as much as my mom did. It is not necessarily a bad thing I realized… everybody is different.
To this present day, I still do not have tremendous cooking abilities, and pretty much everyone around me knows and teases me about it. I find myself telling the story of the “knock-out” Stromboli every once and while, and since that incident over ten years ago I have never once eaten Stromboli.
No matter what, however, I always help my mom in the kitchen. Watching and learning the basics, and handing her what she needs to carry on with her cooking. From any where in the house I can here her yell, “Megan, time for the taste test!”
I always run to the kitchen, and quickly grab a spoon ready to tell her if her food tastes right.
I will always be the taste tester, and I think that is quite all right with me.