The Way I Tell It

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It’s been too long, reader.

I could blame the usual suspects. I’ve worked hard, traveled often, changed friends, changed apartments, seen a little turmoil and a lot of joy since we last spoke. But none of these factors alone can say why I’ve stopped writing here. The truth: Every time I change, this blog has to find a new voice. And I have changed so dramatically so often in the past year that my voice can hardly keep up with it.

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The main struggle is to find something to write that won’t feel false when I next read it. And, while I’ve learned some timelessly true things over the past year, none of them will seem new to you. They’re all reducible to aphorisms: Be generous to your parents. If you must dislike someone, do it with style. Trust what you feel first thing in the morning. Find friends you’re comfortable farting around. Wear less makeup.

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Which is not to say I stopped writing altogether. I agreed to write a column for a just-launched magazine, Mindful. I produced an exceptional quantity of words for my employer. I dusted off some old stories to ready them for print. Then, I got an interesting email from Calphalon. They wondered if I’d help them tell a story in honor of Women’s History Month – a story about women in the kitchen. A prompt is equal to a purpose, so I said yes.

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My story begins as all stories begin: with a mother. Meet Mamie Mears. At the age of 30, she left a punishing life in China and never looked back. Within a year of arriving in Los Angeles, she worked as a maid, sold eggrolls in the street, learned English, refused to marry a rich man, faced homelessness, met and married my father. She weighed 80 pounds when they took their vows, and cooked for the reception. The food was, I’m certain, as extraordinary as she is.

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My mother is the finest cook I know. Her dumplings are legendary, and she can transform the humblest ingredients – some bits of rib bone, starchy tomatoes, weeks-old cabbage – into the most memorable meal you’ll ever eat. She didn’t teach me how to cook, but she taught me how to love cooking. To see the kitchen not as a place of burden and duty, but of joy and remedy.

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I consider my mother a feminist, despite her love of domestic things. She was the head of her family, leading her mother, sister and brother to new lives in America. She rose from housemaid to CFO in fifteen years. She was forceful and unrelenting. And she taught her daughter by example: Be loud, brash and utterly yourself. Work hard and know what you’re worth. Demand respect. Never settle.

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Now imagine a woman like this in the kitchen. Yet she never served chicken soup with a side of spite, or begrudged any moment she spent over the stove. Because when she works in the kitchen she’s not slaving away. She’s meditating. She’s saying something. She’s doing what she loves most to do. Women like my mother rather complicate our picture of a homemaker – and I hope they continue to.

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Because for her and for me and for women like us, cooking isn’t a chore. It’s not something to just “get done.” It’s a pleasure, an escape. It’s a way to communicate what can’t be neatly expressed with words. So the next time we make you an omelet, understand that we’re telling you our own quiet stories. In every flip and flash of a pan you can read who we are, what we love, where we came from and where we’re going.

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Cooking is commonly understood as an offering. A woman is always cooking for a crowd, or cooking to impress, or cooking her way to your heart. But my version of the story is a little different. The way I tell it, that omelet isn’t for you – not really. It’s for me. It’s for us.

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21 responses to “The Way I Tell It

  1. Angela, I think this is the best thing you’ve ever written. I was in tears the first paragraph. You are the only person I know besides myself who REALLY knows what an amazing person your mother is. Her presence lifts the world. I’m proud to know her with you.

  2. Beautiful. And glad to read it. It is one thing if you are busy my dear, but to assume you can know what will not sound “false” to you a time from now is near foolishness. You said yourself you’ve grown so fast. Write well, write like this, and let go otherwise and I guarantee you both readers and a legacy.

  3. Hi Angela,

    I found your blog not too long ago and am absolutely entranced by your writing. So glad that you are writing again and am loving reading it all!

    Best,
    Natalie

  4. Love you both! Your mother is such a wonderful being. I think she taught us all how to love cooking and I thank her for that.

  5. Darleen Pinio

    I didn’t start to tear up until you started talking about your Mom. I have never had the opportunity to enjoy her cooking, but I really enjoy her as a person, a supervisor and as a real friend. We don’t get to talk as much as we used to. We do have a catchup phone call every now and then. She is an extrordinary women that has taught me a lot! One of these days I hope she’ll cook for me!

    I understand your life is on the right track. I’m sure not surprised to hear that. The fruit doesn’t fall far me the tree!

  6. I’m also new to your blog. i discovered you quite by accident and I’m so glad I did. I hope that you’ll find your way back here more often.

  7. glad you’re back! hope you stick around for awhile.

  8. Loved this! Genuine, bracing, effortless — like all your writing. Glad you’re posting to the blog again, Angela. :)

  9. I’ve missed your writing. Welcome back.

  10. Genia Taylor

    This is wonderful. You are such a special person to write such beautiful things about your Mom. I have known her for several years and she is AMAZING. I enjoyed working with her and she taught me so many things. She is so very SPECIAL to me. Keep writing Angela.

  11. Just discovered your blog, completely beguiled by you and your words, currently devouring your archives. I hope that you’ll never stop writing here.

  12. I’ve been a quiet follower for a while and just realized how much I’ve missed your blog posts during your silence. Your writing is the kind to savor like a great meal, and far to brutally honest to ever be false.

  13. Beautiful tender post Angela :) You’re mum is such a strong determined lady. It’s been a long time since I’ve commented here and I do miss your writing! Like you, I’ve found it difficult to post due to changes in life. Keep posting when you’re able to…and congrats on magazine column too :)
    Thanks for a great reminder too that cooking isn’t just a chore but an expression and escape!

  14. So glad to see that you’re back, and that you’ve expanded your writing beyond the boundaries of this blog (though I do hope you’ll update your avid fans the occasional post here, too).

  15. Oops: update your avid fans *with* the occasional post…

  16. I’ve recently discovered your blog thanks to my good friend Diane (who I see has commented above) — I love your writing and am glad to see you’ll be writing more again!

  17. i love everything about this.

  18. i would be curious to know what philosophy classes you may have taken. many of your questions and thoughts relate to taking responsibility for the self which is not an ordered entity but a dynamic entity trapped in a less dynamic body at this time. At the beginning and end of life your body dominates your self identity and at your current period of existence your self identity now predominates. how to create an authentic self when you have perhaps multiplied your self via this blog and other exposures is a difficult task that may easily lead you to believe eventually only you can be judge and jury and that this trial is endless and prone to contempt mistrials and recusals.

    i sense your discomfort and would tell you this kind of feeling is ongoing. one could collapse or expand, reject or embrace these tensions. dualities are difficult to transcend in physical reality less so in language.

    have you read alain de botton? i think you would like his works.

  19. i’m the type who doesn’t like wordy stuff when it comes to food. i prefer photos and illustrations.
    then, today comes– me, desperately thinking of a new amusingly witty name for my food blog (i’m a fresh starter), so searching Saveur for their reviews and recommendations. i came across your site and didn’t notice myself reading until the end of your post. I even didn’t notice the photos as i craved for the words that I imagined were freshly typed.

    i’m so glad to have come across your blog. it’s actually very timely because for no less than a month now, i have been losing my drive to cook and write due to so many reasons. or no reason at all.

    thank you very much for sharing your heart. keep it up!

  20. Missing your presence here. Please come back to us soon.

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