I google constantly. Things that enlighten me and things that help me survive, from how to cook eggs to what are the prerequisites for comprehension of new information. As I’m spending more time with my mother now, I realised I didn’t inherit a lot of her knowledge in a natural way, on a conscious level. As I’m watching her preparing meals, I began asking questions why she decided to take certain steps. I ask “why are you drying it first before cooking it?” Then she responds with reasonable answers.
I got to be aware of this curiosity ever since my cat unexpectedly had babies in Malawi. I observed her mothering. It was fascinating to see how she passes her knowledge to her kittens. Whenever I visited my friend Sada who is a mother of two children, I used to watch her cooking the way that was new to me. Children helped her make fire, wash meat, and cut meat.
I remember my mum didn’t spend considerable time on teaching us how to actually cook. Of course I know how to cook. But how come my mother learned so much from her mother even without the internet and I don’t have one single recipe in my head? My guess is, she and I lived in the different era. My mum was born after about 10 years after Korean War. Patriarchic model was still dominating and the role of men and women was separated. Naturally, the expectations on girls were totally different compared from now. Back when I was young, all the expectations on me were getting decent education and making ends meet. Neither was preparing meals nor doing laundry for family not directly related to duty as well as my future choice. Cooking for family wasn’t even catalogued as a thing in my brain. But for her, it was probably catalogued as a main role back then. It’s highly likely that Sada’s children will use the inherited knowledge they learned and knowing that, she will teach them housekeeping skills with more care. So it is changing. Very fast especially for Korea. None of my millennial friends cook themselves on daily basis and it’s impossible to do so when the unofficial working hour lasts up to 7pm if lucky. The change is visible. Flexible, on-the-go, casual, technology, instant, those are the words describing the food culture of the millennials.
Today one thought came to my mind. The knowledge my mother inherited from her mother, grand mother, and great grand mother will be lost by me. Is it something to be sad about? Should I be sad about losing the knowledge or accept that the time has shifted dramatically since computer came to our lives? When my turn comes, would there be anything specific as mother’s role and father’s role to pass down?
Photograph: Tim Marshall