Cooking is a Family Thing
“Here, can you grab that lettuce head and clean it for me?”, my father asked my sister.
She grabbed the lettuce, turned around and started cleaning it under cold water. We just started cooking a Sunday evening meal in the time before Christmas. We in this case were: my brother, my father, my sister and I.
We were all together gathered in the kitchen in my parent’s house. Our kitchen is not enormous big but big enough such that four people can work there together without standing in the way of each other. My mother was in another room reading a book, today it was our turn to cook the meal since she usually cooks every other day from Monday till Friday. In the Background was some music playing, some new house or dance tracks, probably a new music album my brother had discovered a few days ago. We always listen to music while cooking, mostly we listen to some radio channels but from time to time somebody just plugs in their phone and plays something from that. We used to listen to so much house music that even my dad started liking it and now listens to it, too.
“What should I do?”, I asked my father.
“Well, look into the recipe…there you’ll find what is next in line to do.”
I looked into the cookbook laying on the countertop – it was a relatively new one, one about back to the basics cooking if I remember it correctly. But I can’t say that for sure, my mother has a weakness for cookbooks, so nearly every month there are some new ones in our house, covering almost every past and current food trend, so it’s not always easy keeping track of the cookbooks which are currently in use.
I looked on the page: “ Step 2: Grab the mushrooms, clean them and chop them in evenly sized quarters.”, alright, I thought to myself…let’s do that. I turned around, went over to our fridge and grabbed the mushrooms to go over to the sink to clean them.
“I can do that…if you chop the onions for me”, my sister interrupted my stream of thoughts.
“No problem…are you scared you would start crying?”
“No…I just don’t like it”
I took the onions out of her hands and handed her the mushrooms. While I started chopping the onions, I looked around the kitchen, seeing my brother how he’s standing besides the stove together with our father looking into the water waiting for it to start boiling and my sister how she starts cleaning the mushrooms at the sink. I moved out of my parent’s house a bit over a year ago and just now I realised how much I missed these family gatherings. Just us all together in the kitchen like it has always been. Since my early childhood I have memories of my siblings and me, standing together in the kitchen with our parents, cooking or baking something. I remembered a situation a few days ago when I was in my flat with my girlfriend, baking the first Christmas cookies of the year. It was a great day and I really enjoyed baking together with her but it was another sort of joy than the times I baked together with my family and just then I realised that I missed spending time with my family.
I finished the last onion and went over to look into the cookbook again: “Step 4: Cut the Pomegranate in half and pod its kernels out of its skin.” That’s gonna be a mess I thought to myself.
“Dad, didn’t you tell me about this trick with pomegranates the other day?”
“Yeah…just cut it in half and knock with a wooden cooking spoon on its skin and the kernels will fall out.”
I did as he said and knocked on the skin, soft at first, then harder…nothing happened.
“It doesn’t work…”
“Yeah, that’s because you’re weak”, my brother replied.
“Well then, try it yourself, big guy”, I said while handing the pomegranate over to my brother.
I leaned back onto the countertop watching him knocking on the pomegranate…and…nothing happened again.
“Well, seems like you’re just as week as you look” I said to him.
I took the pomegranate halves and started poding them as I would have done it right from the start. While doing that, I occasionally looked around in the kitchen where my father just started to roast some deer in a pan on the stove while my brother started roasting the onion and mushroom pieces in another pan. Meanwhile, my sister was ripping the lettuce in mouth-sized pieces, throwing the pieces into a salad bowl. I looked down at my hands, they were all red, pomegranate juice dripping from my finger tips; I picked up the chopping board letting the pomegranate kernels fall into a bowl where they would be waiting till the very last second before the salad would be brought out on the table.
I looked around, it didn’t seem like there was much more work to do. My father just had put the deer into the cooker and my sister was almost done with the salad. “Here you can clean and roast the chanterelles if you don’t have anything else to do at the moment”, my father said as he handed me the bag of fresh chanterelles. I took them out of the bag and started cleaning them under cold water.
“Hey…do you need any help in there?” My mother suddenly asked.
“No…everything is under control…we’ll call you when dinner is ready”, my father replied.
I turned back to cleaning the chanterelles, as my brother took his phone and asked me about a new song which came out that day.
My brother and I have a similar taste when it comes to music, so it was no surprise I already knew that song. As we were younger our taste slightly differed since I was interested in English rap music from early on while he listened more to German hip hop. But already at this time we both were interested in the similar kind of music and as older as we got, we started to like the same groups and artists and in the last year we visited a music festival and two concerts together. In my opinion this similar taste of music brings us even closer together as siblings.
He put it on loud at the speakers, much to the joy of my father who didn’t agree with every kind of music we are listening to. But it was Christmas time so he let us play that one song. As soon as I finished cleaning the chanterelles I started cutting them in quarters, with one ear listening to the music, with the other ear listening to my siblings who teased each other by saying funny things about each other.
I think everybody who has siblings can relate to the feeling of just messing around with them. And everybody who has siblings but has already moved out from home can relate to the weird feeling you have when you are all alone in your own flat, free to do whatever you like to (the one thing you always dreamt about when you were at the edge of a rage because your sister or brother was just so annoying), but the only thing that you really notice is the silence all around you. It is true that you get used to the sound of an always-buzzy house without even noticing it. But in that one moment you are in your flat and the only thing you hear is the noise from your neighbor and the construction worker outside your building but besides that…nothing. Not a scream of:
“Damn, where are my headphones?” or “Damn it…stop it…take your own damn M&M’s”,
that’s when you realize that you’re now on your own. On the one hand it fills you with joy, you’re independent now (or at least you feel like you are). On the other hand in this moment you know that you’ll always miss the sound of a buzzy house.
Skipping thirty minutes forward, the salad was ready to be served, just the vinaigrette had to be poured over it. The deer would need another fifteen minutes in the stove but we wanted to start with the salad first so the timing was perfect.
“Can somebody call your mother that the salad is ready?”, my father asked.
“Sure…MOM…MOM…Salad is ready”, my brother yelled as loud as he could.
A muffled “I’ll be right there”, could be heard out of the next room.
My mother turned around the corner and we all sat down at the table while my brother put the salad on the table. Soon the room was filled with laughter while we ate our salad, we aren’t the type of family who sits there quietly and eats – in my family everybody makes
fun of the other or tells jokes.
“Have you heard about the construction at your old school?”, asked my mother.
“Well, they wanted to build a new gym for the school…but now they have discovered that they forgot about a river in the underground while planning the building.”
“Yeah, a river is easily forgotten”, my brother said.
“So they can’t build a new gym now?”, I asked my mother.
“No…they can build a new one next year at the earliest…”
“Oh my…I’m glad they didn’t do that when I was still there”.
Especially my brother likes that part of the meal, he is a naturally funny guy and that’s one of the things I missed the most about these family dinners, just telling jokes and being silly. When I’m in the flat of me and my girlfriend it is also always funny and I didn’t want to miss a second of it but being with the persons who have known you for all your life is still something else. That’s also something I realized when I moved out, nothing will ever be as being together with the only persons who actually have known you all your life and that’s one of the fantastic things about family, you know that there are always people who will understand you.
Forty minutes later, my father just took the dishes of the table as we had finished our dinner, my mother asked “Who wants ice cream?”; of course everybody wanted some and as we all sat there with our bowls of ice cream in the hands, joking and talking about the newest stories, I realized I forgot about maybe the best part of still living at home:
The infinite access to ice cream.