Women’s History Month: An Ode to the Women in Our Lives
In honor of Women’s History Month, the Culture Desk staff writers are taking turns every week to highlight the important women figures in their lives.
March 10, 2021
I know it’s cliche, but I would not be where I am today without the wisdom and guidance of my mother. She was the one who introduced me to both the beauty of food and legacy of my grandmother — two realms I use to understand the world.
As a child, I hung out in the kitchen to watch my mother cook. At first, I wasn’t interested in cooking, but I loved seeing my mom make all our meals from scratch. We connected by discussing our favorite foods, such as spanakopita, and my mom’s favorite cookbook author, Marcella Hazan.
Occasionally, I’d help out by washing lettuce for our salads, but my favorite role was being the taste tester, or “Gourmet Goo” as my mom called me. My mom’s passion and curiosity for food and cooking rubbed off on me — it motivated me to take classes in the Food Studies department at NYU.
I’m also thankful for my mom because she taught me how to appreciate my grandmother, another influential figure in my life. Even though I never had the chance to meet my grandmother, I got to know her through the stories my mom told me about her life.
“Your grandmother was always doing something. She never sat around and watched TV. If she wasn’t baking bread or cooking, then she was sewing our clothes. She always encouraged us to do something because life is too short to sit around.”
This was usually my mom’s response when I complained about not getting a chance to scroll through Twitter or TikTok. It was anecdotes like these that reminded me of the importance of living life to the fullest, especially considering the fact my grandmother died at the young age of 49.
The stories my mother told me from her childhood seemed like a quintessential second-generation experience. You would never guess my mom grew up with an Iraqi mother until she told you about the food — Dolma, hummus, baklava and even tripe (stomach lining).
“Your grandmother would make boiled tripe with garbanzo beans. It was white, ugly, and looked unappetizing. Yeah, your Aunt Ruth and I did not like that, so we took it to our friends to show them what we had to go through. It would make Mom a little sad, but she enjoyed it and always had extra bread lying around for us to snack on. Her bread was the best in the world.”
Though the tripe story always made me laugh, it also made me feel sorry for my grandmother, who was only trying to cook food from her home country for her children. It’s stories like these that make me feel as though I’m one step closer to knowing her.
I learned about my Iraqi heritage whenever my mom would make dolma, flatbread and other staples of Iraqi cuisine. Since my grandma was unable to receive an education, my mom frequently lectured me about the importance of school. Now that I’m older, I’ve taken immense interest in reconnecting with my Iraqi roots. I’ve learned to better appreciate what my mother was trying to instill in me. My grandma, just like other women and immigrants in the world, faced political and social injustices that I was lucky not to experience.
Tonight, I’ll be honoring my mom by enjoying a glass of wine and making Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with roast chicken.
Email Gabby Lozano at [email protected]