By Colleen Mair / Contributor
When I was younger, my Mum would cook almost every meal for my family — it stemmed from her passion for cooking and desire for us to be well fed with good, nutritious food. We’d have fresh crepes for breakfast on the weekend, tortillas made from scratch filled with chicken and fresh salad for lunch and a full roast meal with homegrown vegetables for Sunday dinner — as a treat we may have even had fresh apple pie for dessert. Now I look back, it’s no surprise I was a bit of a chubby child.
But this wasn’t just exclusive to home, each day she would send my sister and I to school with cooked lunch that she got up early to make for us — I remember waking up often to unusually savory smells. At the time I didn’t realize how lucky I was. I’d be annoyed to open my bag at recess only to find fruit and be embarrassed to bring out my thermos of homemade soup at lunch, including a silver spoon neatly wrapped in a piece of paper towel that we could use to wipe our mouths. In the meantime, my friends would get colorful packets of snacks at recess and pizza from the canteen at lunch.
At home I ate what I was given with pleasure, but at school I was a typical kid who scrunched their nose up at healthy food — I wanted the “fun food” filled with artificial colours and flavors, jealous of what everyone else had. I’d sometimes choose to go hungry rather than eat healthy or risk standing out with my strange food and bulky containers. I’d come home with untouched lunch and fruit squashed beneath my books, hoping Mum wouldn’t find them. Then I’d beg her for sugary snacks in the supermarket or for some money to buy junk from school —- ever so rarely would she give in, and when she did it was the ultimate treat.
As we moved onto high school and Mum became busy, it was up to us to prepare our own food and we could choose to spend our pocket money on canteen food if we so wished. You wouldn’t catch us waking up early like Mum, so we slept in and quickly threw a sandwich together before our daily race to the bus stop. But two pieces of bread with peanut butter smeared between them was the most unexciting lunch I could think of, it was bland and claggy, sticking to the roof of my mouth as I chewed — I’d take a couple bites before wrapping it up again and returning it to my bag, soon to be squashed beneath my books. The canteen food was great but there was a limit to how much money I could spend and greasy food I could consume. Soon I longed for Mum’s cooked lunches, though I didn’t dare ask for such a favor. But one school morning, I was woken up again to those unusually savory smells — that day I brought in a fresh wrap, with chicken she crumbed herself and salad plucked from the garden, it was still soft and aromatic as if she had only just made it. Then the next day was home-rolled sushi paired with those little fish shaped soy sauce she would always save from the shops. Each time it was something new, and soon it was others who wanted what I had — they were jealous of my food. Only then did I realize I was the lucky one. It wasn’t every day she cooked us food but when she did, it was the ultimate treat.