We moved from Montreal to Toronto the summer right after I turned 11. It was not what one would consider and ‘easy’ transition for this pre-teen. It happened at a very tender age and it took me a good two years to adjust. And by adjust, I mean not cry every day and hate everyone.
I was toughest on my mother, the tiny frigid French woman some of you may already know. I could blame no other person for my unhappiness, and blindly thought that she was trying to sabotage my life. In her own uncommunicative way, I know now that she never stopped trying to comfort me.
She pulled out all the stops. She planned weekend excursions to botanical gardens, found a stable where I could ride horses, and tried to make our weekends memorable enough that they would sustain me through, what I remember to be, difficult school weeks.
On Saturdays, during the Fall, there was an enormous outdoor food market at Square One, the mall closest to our condo. And so every Saturday, for a few months, she would take out all her cookbooks and magazines and let me plan out the menu for a special Saturday night dinner. And I don’t know why I remember this so clearly (she does as well), but one night we roasted Cornish game hens and stuffed them with Niagara Valley rosé champagne grapes. That was 22 years ago, and still to this day, every once in a while we share one of these ‘Remember those rosé grapes?’ and we swoon at how delicious they were.
My mother and I are very different. I seek her approval constantly and she seeks my recognition of her efforts even more. I like hugs. Her? Not so much. But what we do have in common, is cooking. And if I’ve learned something from her, it’s that the food that we prepare (not always, because there are chicken nugget nights and take away pizza nights here!) is more than just the mass on out plates. It’s about the process, the provenance and the act. And during those tough years, she used cooking as a way to reach out to me.
We had hamburgers (which I am thrilled to announce were enjoyed and completely eaten by all the kids) last night. And Pia helped me make the buns while Luca played outside and Mateo did homework. And for just a minute, I was able to recognize that I was doing something that felt right. As a family we’ve made some difficult choices, and as a woman, I’ve made even more difficult choices. But that moment when Pia was smashing the dough and spilling milk everywhere, well, I hope I remember it the way I remember the rosé champagne grapes.
Have a great weekend!