I used to hold tight the story that my dad was an excellent cook when he got married, and my mom had no clue. Thus, my dad taught mom how to cook. It was my fairy tale. I looked to this story often, when I doubted that they may not last as husband and wife. I just thought dad had to love mom to teach her how to cook. Cooking was very important to survival, so of course it was a huge deal that this happened in my life. I also thought is was the most romantic thing ever. I saw my dad with a halo over his head and a bright light shinning behind him.
In my early years, dad’s food blew me away. I couldn’t get enough. He made everything! When he cooked, it was like going on a little adventure because he always included all these stories about the food and his attempts at new recipes. He talked about food as though it were the love of his life-with a gleam in his eye and a fond grin on his face. I have watched my dad kill chickens, strip them of feathers, break them down, and then fry or cook it. I have been to the meat market with him and heard stories of how to cook goat tongue and cow brain.
Nothing beats my dad’s chicken fry: bursting ginger flavor and just the right amount of chili powder that lingers on your tongue without burning it. It’s intoxicating! What I have learned to appreciate about his cooking is that it never stops evolving! Even today, when I visit he’ll make shrimp curry and it will be totally different from the last time I had it, but still crazy good–most of the time.
There are sometimes when he goes too far in an experimental direction that even a palate that is well versed doesn’t quite comprehend it. This is the charm of my dad’s cooking though. I remember when I was 6 or 7 years old, he decided he was going to make bread from scratch-without a recipe. We went for weeks building up to the day of when he had the time and the ingredients to execute the bread. I watched him mix and knead and bake. I couldn’t wait to take it out of the oven and have a taste. When it finally came out, it had this weird gray color to it and was not flavored at all. We all laughed at the mistake, dusted sugar to our slice and ate it anyway. The texture, aside from the color and flavor, was perfect. I still look for that texture in the bread that I eat today.
For the past year Dad and I have been planning my wedding together. He is funding the larger ceremony and thus, we are a team again. Unfortunately, I don’t look to my dad for all the answers anymore. There is no glowing light or halo floating gloriously above his head. He is more human to me than I would like him to be-mistakes and all.
The truth is I am not sure my dad gets me as a woman. This is the most challenging part of our relationship. I crave his approval and validation, yet never receive it. He just wants me to do things his way and has wanted this throughout my teenage and adult life. Today I am working on releasing my past resentments about my dad that I hold so tightly. Releasing these resentments would mean creating some balance in the way I see dad. I went from holding him up on a pedestal to placing him below me on a ladder. The truth is we are equals. He is no longer an authority figure in my life. However, we can still appreciate each other for the people that we have become.
He doesn’t cook as often anymore, which is heartbreaking for me. However, when he does cook, it’s still damn good! We don’t share recipes or even a house anymore, but we do share a bond that can’t be released no matter what happens. He will forever be my father and I his daughter.
What does this mean? …To be a daughter
I used to think that I was a bad daughter because I had my own opinions that weren’t the same as my father. I used to think that I didn’t please him with my opinions, sense of style, choice of friends, choice of boyfriends, choice of career, or my choice of grad school. It seemed that no matter what I made a decision about, he was against it.
To some extent I still feel this way, But maybe the definition of a daughter is to take the opinions that are handed to her and question them, then make up her own mind. Maybe it’s about finding your own identity, in spite of all the strong opinions that surround you. Maybe it’s about looking for the principles that feel right in my heart and soul– To be able to live a life that I can stand behind and not apologize for.
I’m not sure if Dad and I will have a less tumultuous relationship in the future, but I am grateful for the importance that he placed on food in my life. It has truly crafted me into a person who strives to be open-minded and strives for a mind altering bite in ever dish. He really did inspire me to experiment in life and make those mistakes and add a dusting of sugar to sweeten the sharp taste of a mistake.