When I’m sitting around in conversation with people, sometimes people will begin to reminisce on the food they had growing up. One girl will talk of how her mother made the best (insert what your mom cooked here). It’s usually at some family get together or something when this is brought up and I generally respond with “yeah my mother never really cooked too much”. Now I’ll tell you this. My mother is never in the room when I say this, but somehow she always finds out that I said it. And she always gets offended. Later when it’s just me and her she will say something along the lines of “I cooked. You just don’t remember. I always cooked for you guys (meaning my brother, sister and I). You don’t know how good you had it growing up”. And she’s right I probably don’t. When I tell people my mother never cooked, I only mean it jokingly. I guess I just assume everyone is in on the joke. In all reality, my mother always had a meal on the table at dinner time (or we’d go somewhere), but… I guess when I say my mother never cooked I always mean my mother never baked. But that’s a whole other subject.
So even though I claim out loud that my mother never cooked, she does make some damn good chicken and dumplings. Now these are from scratch. So when she did make them, it was kind of an afternoon type thing. I’d walk into the kitchen and pick at the chicken she was pulling from the whole bird she’d just boiled. She’d swat at my hands and tell me to go away. I’d come back later, and there would be dough rolled out on the table, cut into strips. I’d pick one up and eat it, and as before. She’d tell me to get out of the kitchen. Finally, late in the evening, the family would sit down to a bowl of chicken and dumplings. So good. It’s the kind of thing that warms you from the inside out, heats up the soul. So even though we didn’t have it often, when we did, it was good.
Fast forward several years. I’m living in North Carolina and up to my ears in school work. I’m so stressed over whether or not I’m actually going to pass my college classes. What if I fail my test? What if I flunk a class? Can you flunk out of a Community College? I needed a break. I needed something to escape to. I wasn’t sure what though. I’d never been into the idea of hard drugs, and I didn’t have enough money to buy the amount of alcohol it would take to get a good enough escape. On top of everything, not only did I need a break but I had a nasty cold coming on. I called my mother, craving her chicken and dumplings. I’d been getting better at cooking and figured I could make a pot and things would be better. I scribbled down the instructions as she told me over the phone. It sounded easy enough.
I set out to the grocery store to buy the two things I would need: a whole chicken and a bag of flour. Walking into my kitchen after visiting the grocery store, I took out the biggest pot I had and filled it with water. I cut open the plastic bag and shook the bird out. It felt into my kitchen sink, and sat there. I looked at it, not exactly sure what to do next. I picked it up by the leg and it swung to the side. This is so weird. I couldn’t get over how I was just going to shove a whole bird into boiling water. Something that had once been a living breathing thing. I mean I’d cooked chicken and such before, but never resembling the form in which god had made it. Once the chicken was cooked, I took it out of the water that had now become broth. Once the chicken was cool I pulled the meat off the bone and giggled like a prepubesant kid “I’m deboning a chicken. Hehe”. Once the chicken was off the bone, I measured the flower carefully into a bowl, and did the same with the broth, mixing them together. Rolling out the dough I cut it carefully and placed it back in the boiling broth for them to cook. And then I added the chick. And there it was chicken and dumplings.
From then on, it became something I did regularly. When life was becoming too much to handle, I would go out and find me a chick (okay it was in the poultry section at the grocery store, but whatever) and pull out my big pot. Making chick and dumplings I learned was a great escape from life. It was something I could focus on, step by step. And in the end, I go to ignore the rest of the world for about four hours, and I had an amazing meal.
For me. Chick and dumplings was unplugging my life and focusing solely on the task at hand. Making sure the chicken was done. Picking the chicken off the bone. And not fucking up the dumplings. It was existing temporarily in a world where I could control everything going on, while the rest of the world was not only out of my control but out of my mind. It was holding the bowl of broth, chicken, and noodles and letting it warm not only my hand, but my soul. It was an easy and delicious way for me to forget about the rest of the world.
And to think. I got all of this from a woman who I claim doesn’t cook.