Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fear of Difference: Food

I've written before about how narcissists don't like new information, unless they find it themselves, or rip it off someone and pass it off as their own.  They also hate it when you can do something they can't.  Not that you're so gifted or anything, but because they either didn't have the patience or the inclination to bother.  So when they see that you have taken an interest in it, they hate it. They usually do one of two things when they discover you can do something they can't.  They either disparage what you can do, telling you it's not worthwhile, or they tell you about someone they know who is perfect at it, and that you'll never do it as well as the "special" person they know.

I've always loved cooking and baking.  NAM thought everything she made was earth-moving, and if you attempted to make one of her dishes and did it differently, she would get mad.  God help you if you made an improvement.  It was as if her recipes she got from the books she owned were sacred, and if anyone dared branch out, buy other cookbooks, use different ingredients in their version, she would instantly disparage them, their cooking, their kitchen, their name it.

I didn't have internet access until about 2001, at least access from my own computer.  I'd had cable before and could watch the Food Network and such.  NAM used to get mad when she found out I had watched "cooking shows" or tried a recipe I saw on one of the programs.  If I talked about a particular person, whether on Food Network or not, she would disparage them and everything they did.  I always liked Martha Stewart and subscribed to her magazine and bought a couple of her books.  I had to keep them out of sight when NAM would come to my apartment.  I had to hide most of my other books too, whether it was literature or regular fiction.  Pretty sad to think that I had to keep my reading and interest in learning a secret around her.  Even sadder that books were almost like contraband, even when I was growing up.

I remember her having a snarky attitude toward something I made back in 1996.  It was Christmas, and she was having her usual family shin-dig at her house.  And it had to be the center of everyone's holiday, and if you dared have anything as big or important somewhere else with friends or in-laws, then she would be furious.  Her house was the center of the universe.  Anyway, I had made a White Chocolate Pistachio Cheesecake.  It was incredible, not because I made it, but because it was an incredible recipe.  Whoever came up with it was a genius.  It was a frozen one, so no baking (and no eggs).  Well, NAM asked me what I wanted to take to her house for the big gathering.  I told her.  She told me that no one would want to eat that, and that the foods I made were so weird, and that no one would want anything to do with what I made.  I took the thing anyway.  What do you know?  It got the most attention out of any other food.  It was a very rich cheesecake, so you could only eat a small piece, so there was enough for everyone.  NAM got so mad when she heard guests making happy moaning sounds when they ate it.  She got even madder when they asked me about it, i.e., the recipe and such.  

Wow.  A grown woman getting mad about a cheesecake taking all of the attention away from her.  This was but one incident like this.  There were so many more.  She finally shut up about my food after years of me showing up with things everyone loved.  She then decided that I would have to make things she didn't want to fool with.  Dishes that she had done before and I had never done.  She'd tell me to make something, and that I had always done such a good job with it (even though I'd never made it) and that everyone loved my (fill in the blank with the food I'd never made).  She would then insult me if I told her I'd never made it before, claiming I should have, and if I'd stop making such weird foods, I'd have more time to make the things she asked me to make, which makes no sense.

She would tell me to make more "good ole' country cooking."  Whatever in the hell that means.  She actually told me once that the only seasonings used in Southern cooking were salt and pepper.  Not true.  I didn't tell her that her idea of "Southern food" wasn't really Southern.  Cheez Whiz?  Really?  Canned green beans?  Cream of mushroom soup?  Those were convenience foods she based her entire cooking repertoire around.  I did try to tell her what foods had been traditionally used in Southern cooking, but she didn't believe me. 

I had back surgery in 2005, and she and AF came to our house (600 miles from hers) to help with my children.  I had stocked the pantry, fridge, and freezer with food, and I had made a few things ahead of time.  My children told me that she dug through everything and complained that there was nothing to eat and nothing to make.  Well, true, there was no Velveeta, COM soup, Lipton Onion Soup Mix, canned green beans, Jif peanut butter, or Hamburger Helper.  She actually could not make a meal out of the foods I had.  You know, fresh vegetables, pasta, meats, fish, butter, cream, and cheeses.  My children tried telling her the things I made and how easy they were to do, but she would have none of it.  She even cooked some frozen corn that I had put into a zip-top bag and had used as an ice-pack.  It had been defrosted and refrozen, and it was obvious, but she cooked it anyway and then complained when it tasted like crap.

Another example:

I remember her complaining that she could never make Pound Cake.  It's actually quite easy to make and a good recipe to use when teaching children to bake.  I made Cream Cheese Pound Cake fairly often, and of course, she loved to tell me that I didn't do it right.  Like she would know.  She then told me about some old lady she knew that made Pound Cakes and was so good at it, and that hers were always perfect.  She told me that mine "fell" because it wasn't as tall as the one the old lady made.  Well, it was a different recipe, a smaller one that made a smaller cake.  The look on her face when she told me I did it wrong?  It was a mixture of sadistic pleasure combined with smug satisfaction.  What in the world would be wrong with me being able to make the damned cake?  Just because she couldn't?

Well, this ended up longer than I intended, but I guess my point is that people like NAM are so hostile toward anything different that they get downright nasty.  I used to wonder what I was doing wrong and would beat myself up about it.  I tried to be what she wanted (and cook/bake what she wanted) but I had the desire to be true to myself.  Perhaps that is what she really found so threatening: my need for self-awareness, personal growth, and knowledge.


Tundra Woman said...

What a bitch. I had very similar experiences as well. These 'parents' will attempt to destroy anything you're proficient in or take pride/joy in doing.

Scatha said...

Are you writing about my NM? :D

My NM only loves good ole' country cooking.

When I was little, she encouraged me to cook. When she realized it would result in me not being dependent on her for food, she has done everything she could to prevent me from learning cooking.

So I have learned it on my own, and I don't want to brag, but I'm really good at it. Especially in gourmet food and 'foreign' recipes, and I'm proud of my cooking skills.

Whenever I give them food I have prepared, she has disgust on her face, and she never fails to comment how weird and inedible everything I cook is. Especially when everyone else around the table express how delicious the food I have cooked is.

And since she has realized that I have more patience regarding cooking, and also I can make even simple dishes better than her, she is now even more persistent in describing how crap the food I make is.

Sweetness said...

Same monster, just different skin.

Sarathi Banking said...

Nice Article. Thanks for sharing...