I've always thought my mother's the best cook in the world.
Her Braised Mushroom Chicken in Oyster Sauce.
Her Chicken and Potatoes in Oyster Sauce.
Chicken and Ginger in Oyster Sauce.
Sunny Side Up Eggs with Oyster Sauce.
Yes, Oyster Sauce was a big part of my mother's cuisine. And my sister and I ate it up, smacked our lips and proclaimed my mom's food the best in the world, then and now.
It wasn't until I got married that I discovered in slow-motion disbelief how little I actually knew about 'real' cuisine and cooking beyond Oyster Sauce. My mother-in-law, a housewife, had cookbooks upon cookbooks of dishes that she'd made, experimented with, adapted, created from scratch and basically memorised after years of feeding her two boys and husband, all of whom proclaim that she was the actual best cook in the world.
Of course, I would protest. In my heart. Her Braised Mushroom Chicken in Oyster Sauce was nice, but it came nowhere near my mother's. It was a family recipe, handed down by my grandmother and adapted by mom. And even though it was simple to make and required no real skill, my mom's Braised Mushroom Chicken in Oyster Sauce would be the one dish that I'd remember my mother's cooking by. And noone could take it from her.
Thing is, my mom's cooking wasn't about just taste or skill (or the lack of which). It was the fact that she'd been a working mother, who chose to teach afternoon classes because she wanted the time to make sure my sis and I always had homecooked meals everyday when we came back from school. Looking back, sure, the dishes we'd grown to love so much were really just mediocre. But it was whatever my mom could find the time to make, and what our family budget would allow.
It's been exactly one week since my in-laws have gone home, and I've been cooking up little storms everyday (well, almost. We're having Jack in the Box tonight because I got sick of rice). They're simple dishes, just like mom's, but as I watch my family tuck heartily into each meal I'd spend my time and effort making each day, the realisation that I am making history as the person who noone is ever going to measure up to in terms of homecooking as far as my kids are concerned, settled on me like a warm blanket.
Not exactly one of my cita-citas (objectives in life), but man, it feels great to know I will be remembered that way.