When I moved to the United States from Iran in 2016, cooking became a major part of my life. It’s one of the many unexpected results of my move to this country.
I don’t cook because I’m expected to. I do it because I enjoy it. I like knowing what’s going into my body and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I conquer a new recipe.
When I wrote for The Washington Post’s food section on Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, I consulted with my mom a lot. In the process, I realized how different our relationships with cooking are.
I didn’t really cook until I was 31 years old. Very simply, our kitchen was my mom’s domain. She literally would not allow my sister and me to touch any of the appliances.
Part of her insistence was that her sense of identity was connected to her ability to feed our family in a way that satisfied all of us.
And that’s why she didn’t want my sister and me to spend our time in the kitchen. She wanted us to put our energy into learning everything she never had the opportunity to experience.
Our academic success was a priority for her. She wanted us to reach a higher social status that would ensure a life of spending our time outside the kitchen.
She was 18 when she was married and 21 when she had her first child. Back then, society dictated that she stay home, raise the kids and cook.
When I was 18, I could already speak English. By the time I was 21, I was earning my own living. I went on to graduate from college and then earned my master’s degree.
As an ordinary girl and then woman, I always thought I didn’t have time for cooking. Like so many of my friends and classmates, I thought it was below me to spend my time in the kitchen.
I thought cooking didn’t require any intellect or skill, and saw the kitchen as the same trap that had befallen my mother.
I was never worried about not being perceived as a “good girl.” I was ambitious, and ambitious women don’t cook, right?
Instead, when I finally had my own kitchen and began to cook in America, I found emotional balance in the process. It quickly become an activity I loved doing, not something I am forced to do or that takes my time and energy away from achieving my other goals.
One of those professional goals has always been to write for an audience. Cooking helps me expand on that ambition, giving me a new subject to write about.
Living in the United States, cooking is one more way that I’m able to express my culture, where I come from and an important part of myself.
My mom and many other women then and now will never have the opportunity to share their kitchen experiences, joys or sorrows.
This is my chance to give a voice to all of them.