I've been told there are five love languages. Words of affirmation, Acts of Service, Time, Touch, Gifts. I don't know where exactly my mother's love language stands in solid terms. But what I do know is, my mother's love language is cooking for the people she loves. It sounds a little redundant, patronizing even, saying that my mum, a housewife who devoted her life to raising her kids and being the model wife loves cooking for her family. But I know this simple truth as certainly as I know that if I called my mother right now, the first thing she'd ask me is if I had had my lunch, and then scold me if I told her I had ordered a pizza. So I have decided to write a story on my mum's love language.
Cooking as a love language: A story in three parts
Mum is allergic to prawn to the point that she can't so much as touch them. It has been this way, since she carried my brother in her belly. In an amusing twist of fate, my brother loves them. And for that reason alone, mum asks our father to go early in the morning, because that's when you find the best, freshest ones. Then, she quietly puts on gloves, separates the prawns from their shells and cooks them for my brother. When I tell her we're grown up enough to make it on our own now, she clucks and says, "You just go set the table.";
When I contracted Covid, I knew even before they tested me because I could feel myself losing the ability to taste things. I don't remember much of the time I had been sick, except for the delirium and the fatigue. But I remember Mum had made me biryani, because I had been feeling sick for two days straight. The faint scent of saffron and spices wafting from the colourful rice on the ceramic plate, as mum held up spoonful after spoonful, was the last thing I tasted before I could no longer taste anything for the next two weeks.
Over the year that I stayed home during the pandemic, there are a few things I learned about mum that I had never quite noticed earlier. They had just existed in quiet grace, just like her. Mum places the bad rotis at the bottom of the casserole so we get the perfect ones. After we're done, she'll roll up her roti from the bottom of the casserole, dip it in her tea like an unlucky man's baguette and have it while she strolls amongst her potted plants in our small garden on the terrace. Mum calls me to taste the curry each time, whenever I'm home. When I was a kid, I thought she did it because I was good at tasting. More salt? More jeera? More chilli powder? But I was gone for years and I don't think her curries had been any less flavourful then. Salt. Jeera. Chilli powder. A beautiful weave of spices and colour.
Now I know she calls me to taste simply so she can have me stand beside her. She stirs, sets the curry to simmer asks me to wait. We talk about people, the news, and the sale on Myntra, as she grabs a spoon, dips it into the curry and blows on it. Gently, she brings the curry laden spoon to the palm of my hand and looks at me expectantly. I lick the vermilion liquid off my palm and nod. "It's perfect", I say. She grins and turns back to stirring her curry, while the scent of spices swirls between us, filling up the spaces between the words we don't say to each other, "It's been so long. I'd like you to stay beside me for a while. I love you."
Shabnoor Rahman is a student, and an aspiring writer with a deep love of books, especially ones that are existential, bordering on devastating. She loves history, art and architecture and finds great comfort and happiness in the ordinariness of life. She loves getting to know people and hearing their stories, and that is what she wants to be able to do in life - spend her life chasing stories and beauty.
One can reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org