Cooking With My Daughter

By Alexandra Samios Nelson

Every family has its myths and stories; they constitute the family’s collective memory. It’s important to families to have stories that connect you to the ancestors and to each other. Immigrant families treat storytelling in different ways– either mythical “old country” parables that create a perfect world of tradition and beauty that has been lost, or else a void.

These last believe mostly in the new: “We left the old country and its myths behind.” My mother, my grandmother, and my mother-in-law subscribed to the leave-it-be school of immigrant story-telling. We have no old-country stories from these women. All of the stories of the Samioses and the Chins are new land tales, about what happened here in the country that they chose, rather than there in the country that they left.

The only thing that really came with them was the food, so I know almost nothing about our immigrant heritage except how to eat.

So this is what I have passed to my children. I mourn the lost cultural subtleties, but there’s something about food that brings out the stories anyway.

I’ve lured my daughter over to make pastitio and of course, as one does, built up the wonderful revelatory, iconic interaction we were going to have. We’d share stories and be close, and we’d remember this forever and ever, plus I’d get a great blog post out of it.

But that’s not what happened at all. We just…cooked. We had an ordinary conversation. I remembered things about making pastitio that I forgot I knew, it’s so automatic to me. We got rushed at the last minute when she had to go to work and we hadn’t quite planned out the prep correctly. There was no revelation. There was no Instagram moment.

And that’s the point. Cooking just is. “Real” isn’t special. It’s just the ordinary things you do every day. Women in kitchens is iconic enough, without my ambitions gumming up the works.

Learn some of the foods of my heritage at Taste Test: Greek Cooking on Tuesday, July 21.