The room filled with smoke and flames shot up from the gas burner. I jumped back, panicked, looking to my boyfriend for advice. He laughed. The incessant beeping of the fire alarm rang in sync with the crackling of the boiling olive oil. Instinctively I ran to the sink for water. “Water, I need water,” I thought, “water puts out fire, right?” Wrong. As I began filling the tall glass with water, my boyfriend grabbed my wrist.
“Just take the pan off the burner and shut the gas off, Kahley,” he said. This man who fights fires for a living, was patronizing me. Looking at my blotchy tear-streaked face, he sighed. There was no way I was putting a limb close to that hazardous mess.
After fanning the fire detectors with pillows, opening every window and propping the front door open with a shoe, the madness soon calmed. The smoke billowed out the window screens, the constant beeping subsided, but the tears kept coming.
I wasn’t crying because I was embarrassed. I wasn’t crying because I nearly burned my house down or because I ruined dinner. I sobbed because, for the very first time, I realized just how much I missed my mother’s cooking.
The smell of breaded chicken simmering in olive oil reminds me of the impromptu cooking lessons in our kitchen. “Pay attention,” my mother would say, “someday you’ll need to know this.” The scent of homemade tomato sauce boils up memories of high school spaghetti dinners when basketball players would line up to get the first taste. “Someday, I’ll let you in on my secret recipe,” she would say.
But, “someday” always seemed so far away.
I was satisfied letting my mother cook my dinners and helping when I felt like it. I was content watching the chicken brown from the bar stool across the counter while my mother worked to make it just right. I was comfortable waiting for “someday” to rise gradually in the distant future. But, the distant future is now, and boy did it rear its ugly head.
For years I took my mother’s cooking for granted. But, as the microwave slowly warmed a back-up bowl of chicken noodle soup, I realized just how much I longed for a nice home-cooked meal. Ten years ago I anticipated the day I’d be on my own with no one to answer to. Now I long for the past, for the comfort of my mother’s home cooked meals and the memories that come along with it.