I can cook. I can marinate salmon filets, roast a turkey, make focaccia bread, but I do not know how to whip up a dish of bamboo shoots or beef noodle soup. To my mother, I do not know how to cook.
Whenever I made dinner for the family, there would always be some criticism. “Mmm,” everyone would say, except my mother. “This needs some green some color. If you cooked bell peppers and broccoli and put it here and here on the plate it would be beautiful.”
Once, I had some fine noodles that I decided to pair with an equally fancy sauce. I remember blanching and processing almonds and dicing fresh tomatoes. That dinner did not go over well.
Maybe my mother is just being a mother and trying to encourage the best from me. Maybe her palate is not accustomed to pasta dishes. Maybe she cannot appreciate my Westernized creations that are at odds with her Taiwanese tastes.
Years ago, I had an amazing recipe for the best apple pie that my friends raved about. I was yelled at for wasting apples. Perhaps I had turned as American as apple pie and for my Taiwanese mother that just did not sit right.
The food does not matter. Tastes and opinions always differ, yet there is always room for overlap: I like her steamed vegetables and she likes my oatmeal cookies, and neither of us like rotten fruit. But if anyone out there can teach me how to cook Taiwanese food, please do. I would appreciate it very much.