As I prepped to interview my mom, I found myself observing her as she moved about our house. I noticed that she is always keeping herself busy; when I saw her, she was doing laundry, toasting a bagel for herself to eat, cleaning the kitchen counters, searching our refrigerator for our tub of cream cheese, and just constantly moving around. When I finally caught her at the perfect time, she sat down at our kitchen counter to eat her Parmesan bagel from Costco, topped with Philadelphia cream cheese–not whipped. We sat next to each other in the kitchen, her bagel in front of her and my laptop in front of me. I asked if she was ready for the interview, and she gave me the okay to proceed.
Me: What did I hate eating when I was younger? How did you deal with that?
Mom: You hated eating apple sauce. You made a sour face every time I tried to get you to eat it. Until now you don’t really like apple sauce…
Me: What did I love eating?
Mom: Noodles! That’s why your dad named you Noodles. You liked noodles and you loved lobster before; every time we went to a restaurant you always wanted lobster. Even if it’s expensive, we had to order it for you.
Me: Did you cook different things before you were married than after?
Mom: No, it’s always Filipino food.
Me: How has your relationship with food changed over the years?
Mom: It did not change at all. That’s a strange question…
Me: How did you start cooking? What made you want to start?
Mom: When I got married. When I started a family. I was the only one that cooked when I got married.
Me: What is your favorite meal to make?
Mom: Oh my God…chicken adobo. It’s easy to cook.
Me: What were my table manners like as a kid?
Mom: Very good! You were disciplined. No problems. You sat at the table and ate what everybody else was eating. You taste every single food and you don’t make faces, and when you don’t like the food, you just put it aside; you didn’t say anything if you didn’t like the food.
Me: How were your parents cooking?
Mom: Oh! Grandma’s was the best! Nobody can make Grandma’s cooking! You know how she was like with her cooking. Her cooking is authentic and original, and nobody can copy her cooking. She makes it so delicious that even if she gives the recipe to anybody, nobody can copy it; it’s totally different. I think it is the touch.
Me: What did your parents cook?
Mom: She cooked all kinds of Filipino food. She made Sinigang a lot, and Estofado…I think that’s a Mexican dish. Those were the family’s favorite; anytime we had company, they always requested those two.
Me: What are your favorite food memories of me growing up?
Mom: The fish. Whenever Grandma and I fed you fish, you didn’t like it. You liked some fish, but you didn’t like the boney fish. You didn’t like it because it’s hard to take the meat out and there were too many bones. You were afraid of swallowing bones, and that they would go to your lungs.
Me: Why did you cook more than Dad?
Mom: Because Dad didn’t know how to cook. He didn’t have any idea how to cook. He’d cook SPAM! Jesus…It’s because we grew up with maids in the Philippines. But I learned how to cook growing up by watching Grandma. Your dad’s parents didn’t teach him how. Not at all.
Me: Do you regret cooking or feeding me anything?
Mom: No. I want you to taste everything; why would I regret it? At least you can taste everything.
Me: Is there a special food that reminds you of me?
Mom: The Vietnamese soup! The Pho. That’s your favorite soup to eat. When you don’t feel good, that’s the soup I buy.
Me: Did you cook for me or for yourself? Did you have to cook separate dishes for me because I didn’t like what you were making?
Mom: Yes, I would cook you separate food because sometimes you don’t like the food that I cook. But your pickiness doesn’t keep me from eating my favorite food; we just have separate dishes sometimes. We eat the same things a lot, though.
Me: What foods did you stop cooking once you started a family?
Mom: I stopped cooking Pancit because it’s too hard to make—too many ingredients. It involves a lot of cooking. It’s too complicated.
Me: How did you think you’d feed me when I was little, and did that change?
Mom: No, until now, it did not change a lot. It’s the same thing, never changed.
Me: How would you rate yourself as a cook?
Mom: Good, because people like my food. They say I cook good; very tasty. Especially my spaghetti and my Sinigang! They love my spaghetti because I make my own sauce from scratch, and they love my Sinigang because it’s sour but still palatable.
Me: Did you have any kitchen disasters? Did you burn anything?
Mom: No, not at all.
Me: What do you hope I’ll cook when I have my own family?
Mom: My spaghetti! And the Sinigang.
Me: Do you wish you made more of something that you don’t cook very often?
Mom: Yeah, the Pancit. I don’t cook that very often. I want people to be able to taste my Pancit, and I want to hear what they have to say.
Me: If you could have any meal (the ultimate meal) what would it be?
Mom: Anything? I don’t know. I would have my mom’s Estofado if I can, I love her Estofado…but nobody can make it. Nobody can make Mom’s Estofado!
Me: Do you enjoy cooking, or do you do it because you have to?
Mom: I cook because I have to. I don’t really enjoy it too much; I just buy. It’s just too many things to do!
After I interviewed my mom, I actually learned some new things from her. I knew that cooking wasn’t one of her favorite things to do, but after talking to her a little bit and asking her questions, I find that she actually doesn’t cook because she doesn’t have time. She wants to cook, but realistically, adding our completely separate and busy lives into the equation, there just isn’t time to do so. My mom is a single parent and a registered nurse; she’s always busy and always on the move. After my dad passed away, it was always just the two of us either going out to eat or her buying food to bring home for us to eat together. We are both just so busy with our lives that we hardly ever really have time to cook a full-on meal; the only times we ever do are for birthdays or holidays. So when we have the opportunity to sit down and have a meal together, whether it be out to eat or homemade, we really cherish it. Now that I’m nearing the end of my undergraduate career, we find ourselves scheduling days for us to spend together. It’s terrible to say I know, but our schedules just hardly give us any free time to really hang out and spend time just doing nothing. Because of this, we really appreciate any time that we have available to spend with one another…like this interview, or even shopping (one of our favorite things to do together)! (: