My Brother and his family are planning a trip to visit my mom sometime soon.
In previous years, this event has brought international phone calls among my mother, me, my brother and my sister in an effort to prevent a disaster. Usually my sister-in-low, who refuses to be adventurous when it comes to food, declines to eat anything her own mother did not prepare when she was growing up.
And usually, my mother is alert to her daughter-in-law’s approval or disapproval. If my brother’s wife so much as rolls her eyes, it will ruin my mother’s day. As a consequence, my brother overeats to make our mother feel good about her cooking.
But my mother finally has found a way to overcome stress preparing for a dinner when she has guests-such as my sister-in-law-who are too finicky to please. My mom becomes a “prep chef,” that is, she asks what the guest wants for dinner. Then, she asks what the ingredients are. She buys those ingredients requested by the guests and does the initial preparation, after which she turns the kitchen over to the guest to cook the meal. This method, she has learned, deprives her guests of all ground for complaint.
When she turns the kitchen over to the guest, she then is able to relax physically and mentally. She makes herself a cup of tea, sits in the kitchen and enjoys visiting with her son, his wife and her grandkids. At first, I worried my father wouldn’t eat food cooked by someone else, but my mother reassured me he would eat any thing that has garlic, salt and pepper.
The lesson I’ve learned from my mother is to not be so rigid when preparing for a holiday meal. I know women who refuse to go outside their traditional recipes when cooking for the holidays. But I find it’s much better to be a little bit adventurous and relaxed. The idea is to enjoy the company of your guests without worrying about what to feed them and how to impress them with your knowledge of complicated recipes.