A short story by Monique Hershkorn
Status: "Hate cooking, love new saucepans."
Annie hit “send” and watched her “status” update on Facebook. Within a minute, she had three “likes”. Fellow stay-at-home mums, choosing to gaze at screens all day rather than tackle household chores.
Annie gazed around her state-of-the-art kitchen, sniffing the sterile air, the absence of any baking aroma noticeably poignant.
Sighing, she recalled her earlier quarrel with her mother, Della.
“Annie, why can’t you cook a decent meal?” her mother pleaded, gazing around whilst Annie felt her jaw tighten. “Glossy kitchen, yet no food…” her mother continued. “In my day…”
“Stop it!” snapped Annie. At 38, she still resorted to childish behaviour in response to her mother’s perceived criticism. At 71, Della was in fine shape. Annie adored her parents, and had enjoyed a wonderful childhood, but her mother’s skill for culinary creations left her feeling… intimidated.
In truth, Annie was scared. She couldn’t compete with her mother’s supreme household management and competence, so she took the easy route. She never even tried.
Besides, she thought, picking up the Chinese take-out menu, what was the point? International cuisine to your door every night! However, Annie was shamefully aware of her husband Darren and daughter Amy’s delight as they enjoyed Della’s Sunday lunches. “Mmmm, this is amazing, Della,” Darren had gushed to his mother-in-law, Amy requesting seconds.
Annie was glad but, rather illogically, and immaturely, she felt resentful.
“Fish and chips tomorrow night?” she had asked them cheerfully. Amy shrugged and Darren patted her head affectionately. “That'll do. But thank heavens for your mum eh!”.
This morning had been rotten. “Annie, I can help you,” Della had pleaded. But Annie, feeling moody, had hung up the phone. Her family thought she was precious and incompetent and it pained her.
“Ping.” Annie looked at her screen. A post appeared from an unknown name. Adell Clayton?
I saw your post about hating cooking, dear.
Annie frowned, tapping the keyboard with her manicured nails. She read Adell’s profile.
"Cooking tips for the modern mum. I’m old in the tooth but young at heart. You poor girls struggling with modern life. With my simple recipes, you can have tasty meals every night for your family, to make their mouths water.”
This amused Annie. Some of her friends had “liked” Adell’s page which seemed to endorse her. She posted a quick query to check her out.
“Amazing cooking tips,” replied Dina.
“Quick, home-made recipes, my family are very happy!” replied Laura.
"I've thrown away the take-out menu!" commented Joanne with a smiley emoji face, to empahise this joy.
Annie was surprised. These girls were more likely found at the gym, followed by a skinny latte, than in their own kitchens, using the oven. So she clicked on Adell’s page and chose a “simple hearty recipe”, to begin.
Two hours later, kitchen sparkly clean again, a pie was bubbling away in the oven. She couldn’t wait to tell Della.
“Mum. Its' me. Listen. I..... actually cooked dinner!”
“You put something you bought in the supermarket into the oven. That hardly constitutes cooking dear.”
“No" she corrected her. "I made it from scratch,” Annie declared proudly. Silently craving her mother’s praise, her inner child pleading. “I… found a recipe. On the internet.”
Her mother chuckled. “The internet? How … modern. Well done. But remember, turn down the oven, cover the pie with foil, and …”
Annie smiled to herself smugly, and accepted the lecture in good faith. Let her mother have her say.
That night, her family full-bellied and shocked, Annie visited Adell’s page again, remembering Darren’s ecstatic face at seeing beef and onion pie with mash and honey roasted parsnips. All week, her confidence grew and she used most of her kitchen equipment. She still had a nail appointment booked but, small steps, she thought.
Two months later, she offered to make Sunday lunch. The meal was a great success. Through perseverance, she had pulled it off. Her husband and daughter weren't looking at her sympathetically for once, feigning enjoyment of an inferior meal. They were rosie-cheeked, impressed and requesting seconds.
“It’s thanks to Adell Clayton,” she conceded modestly after family praise.
A curious expression crossed Della’s face.
“Oh, mum, I didn’t mean…. with your help too,” she added quickly.
Della sniffed. “It’s fine. I’m just nipping upstairs to the bathroom.”
“You’ve upset granny!” chided Amy. "You're so insensitive mum. She's tried to help you for years and you always ignore her. Suddenly the web has taught you to cook! I'd be miffed if I was granny."
Annie felt despondent. Promising pudding in ten minutes, she crept up the stairs, and saw the light on in their office.
Facebook was on screen and her mother’s fingers were flying across the keyboard.
How can I make a meal for four fussy kids?
Her mother. Della. Sitting at the computer desk. Typing an answer!
I can help you dear.
Annie was baffled. “What..?” she whispered. Della, using a computer! An oven, yes, she was a master, but…
Della turned round, startled. Their similar eyes met, Annie's clouded in confusion, Della's warm, inviting, bright.
“Annie...my darling." She coughed, cleared her throat. "I’m ....Adell. Well, I'm Della." She paused, softening her voice. "More importantly, I am Mum and I'm on your side. Always."
Annie gasped, her hands, still clutching a pair of olive and peach oven gloves, limp at her sides.
“I’m always here for you although you don’t realise. I’m really sorry if you feel I interfere. But you never listen. You modern girls and your sparkly kitchens eh. I hoped you would join me on a local computer course. Dad signed me up! You were too busy at the gym so made up my mind and I went solo.”
“I’m sorry mum, “ Annie whispered.
Della sniffed haughtily. Ever composed. “I don’t like these computers. Horrible modern things. Bring back type-writers!.”
Annie smiled, wordless, seeing her mother as if for the first time, yet enjoying the familiarity of her control, her calm.
“Now, come on. Let’s see if you followed my blackberry crumble recipe properly. The troops are starving. Time for pudding!”
Courtesy of Della/Adell.
Author Notes: A short story about the modern (and traditional) mum. Thanks for reading, hope you like it!