Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The M Word

If you're anything like me, you find yourself every so often in this last minute dilemma of what to do or what to buy a certain loved one in your life. This is a common situation that crops up on birthdays, anniversaries, engagements and, of course... those special days designated to celebrate those important people in our lives. For instance, Mother's Day.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've nothing against earmarking particular days in the year for such purposes. But the implication of the entire concept is that every child needs to find a way to condense the gratitude they feel towards their mothers all into just one day.

There's the problem right there.

It's quite a task to do, really. Because, for those of us with good mothers, we find that the debt we owe them is far too great to be encompassed in just one present or just one meal. Hence, the awful pangs of panic and guilt that seize you as you comb endlessly through your mind on what would adequately express the thanks due to her.

Well, I got my Mum a gift like what most people do, but somehow, it still did not feel good enough. So me and my sister hatched another plan: to cook Mum a dinner on Mother's Day.

Despite both of us being much older now and armed with the basic skills and logic of cookery, we rarely practice our culinary talents. This is because we have such a great cook for a mother, and it's hard to practice your meagre skills in front of such a master.

But the season had called for it, and we were up for the challenge. And so on the evening of Mother's Day itself, we set off with two printed recipes plucked off the Internet in hand and prepared for the journey into the wilderness.

One of our first challenges was finding the correct ingredients. My sister had picked out a lovely looking dessert recipe, but unfortunately it required something called Ricotta, which both of us were totally clueless about. One shop and 2 supermarkets later, we still hadn't located the illusive Ricotta, and gave up, resorting to an alternative ingredient. Improvise was the name of the game. I'm sure Mum would've been proud, had she been also there shopping together with us. In fact, I could imagine her making the same decisions too... well, sort of, anyway.

Other challenges we faced was estimating the correct quantity for each required ingredient. How many cans? How many pieces? And the amazing thing about the recipe I picked out for the main course was that it didn't indicate at all how much was needed. Hence, the need to decide on a suitable amount. Our tactic was to overbuy, since it was better than to come up short.

We took longer shopping for ingredients than expected. We even walked by certain sections in the supermarket several times, just because we couldn't find what we were looking for. We also thought of a extra useful things to buy along the way. I remember remarking to my sister during our little mission, "Now I know why Mum takes ages in the supermarket."

After all the purchases had been made, there came the even greater challenge of the food making process itself. Simple things like what size to shred a vegetable, or when the rice in the pot is wet or cooked enough can be tough decisions to make, if you've not been accustomed to such things. Cooking is just as much an art as it is a science, and it was indeed baffling.

But after all the fretting and efforts needed, me and my sister finally served up a respectable little dinner, much to the utter delight of our Mum.

And more than just another culinary accomplishment under our belt, I felt that I had slipped into my Mum's private world for just a little while, and understood somewhat better the perils of shopping for the home and cooking for the needs of others. Our Mother's Day feat turned out a valuable lesson to me, and I realise this: more than finding a perfect gift for your Mum, the even better thing to do for her would be to take time out to make her happy and to attempt in whatever ways you can to understand her world.

And if we made that part of our daily habits, perhaps we wouldn't feel all flustered and guilty each time Mother's Day rolls around the corner.

* * *

A good book to read to get in the mood for Mother's Day would be Mitch Albom's For One More Day. I gurantee you, it'll make you appreciate your Mother more :)


It’s just a sound really, a hum interrupted by open lips. But there are a zillion words on this planet, and not one of them comes out of your mouth the way that one does.

- Mitch Albom in For One More Day