Kate cannot wait to spend the holidays with her son and his wife — it’s her first Christmas with the family. But when Liz criticizes her cooking, and John chooses silence over defending his mother, will the holidays be ruined?
I was always the feeder — especially after I got married, it was always me cooking for every family dinner and during the major holidays, like Christmas. But after Oliver, my husband, passed, I lost hold of that part of me.
Now, I barely cook, just enough to keep myself going, and barely that.
Except during the holidays because this is when my son, John, comes for his annual roast dinner. And then, it’s time for me to shine. But this year, things got very heated in the kitchen.
This was the first year with Liz, John’s wife, joining us. When they were dating, she always went home to her parents instead of visiting us. Which, I’ll admit, is fair because being with your family is everything during the holidays. Anyway, I was intrigued to see how Liz would mix with the rest of our family for the day.
I got up early and began the Christmas meal, knowing that it would be an early dinner with many side dishes and different desserts to follow. I made the usual Christmas dinner that we’ve done for years — chicken, with roasted potatoes and gravy being the main attraction, but with lots of little dishes. Things that John loved.
But Liz? Oh, she definitely wasn’t a fan.
I was putting the final touches on the chicken when Liz strolled into the kitchen, cell phone in hand, eyeing my cooking. She looked around the kitchen with an expression that looked like she had smelt something terrible. I tried to ignore her because I was already sweating away.
Then, she hit me with a line that slammed through me. “Hey, Kate,” she said, “maybe we should order food. Not everyone wants what you’ve cooked. I don’t know if everyone enjoys your cooking, either. Every aspect of Christmas is supposed to be enjoyed by everyone. They should enjoy the food, too!”
I was completely blindsided by her words.
I saw John leaning against the archway, nibbling on a carrot. He altogether avoided my gaze, looking over me and out the window across the room. I held back my tears and bit my lip.
The guests were almost all present, sitting all over the house, and I didn’t want to put a damper on the dinner, even if Liz had hurt me. Dinner rolled around, and the table groaned beneath the weight of the food. My guests, John included, were digging in and singing praises for the food I had been cooking for most of the day.
“The food’s great, right? Everyone’s enjoying it?” John asked the table.
His uncle laughed and helped himself to another serving of roasted potatoes. “Why wouldn’t we enjoy my sister’s food?” my brother said.
“Because Liz said that the dinner might be ruined by Mom’s dishes. She wanted us to order in.”
“Nonsense!” my brother exclaimed, drowning his potatoes in gravy.
John looked at me and smiled. Which was when I realized that my sweet boy’s silence wasn’t meant to hurt me. No. He was trying to bide his time until he could teach Liz a lesson and embarrass her in front of our family.
Liz turned red from his comment as everyone stared at her. I’ll admit that I felt bad for her. It was her first Christmas with us, and already, it wasn’t looking promising.
Later on, when I was in the kitchen again, packing the dishwasher and emptying dishes of food, Liz came in.
“Kate, I’m sorry,” my daughter-in-law said. “I was so wrong to do what I did. I am sorry, please understand.”
“Understand what?” I asked her.
I did feel bad, yes. But I was still hurt.
“I only said that because John loves your food. He always talks about how you make all these special things for him. I can’t make a basic mac and cheese without him saying yours is better. I looked at the food, smelt all the delicious smells from this kitchen, and panicked.”
“Liz, you should know that a boy and his mother’s food is a relationship in and of itself,” I laughed, trying to diffuse the tension. “I can teach you how to cook just like me. My mother taught me everything I know.”
“Really?” she asked. “Even after I’ve been so horrible?”
“Yes,” I said with a softening smile.
Then, I led her to the Christmas tree, ready to give Liz her present.
I still think the whole thing hurts me, but I’m grateful she didn’t say what she said for a nasty reason. Liz felt threatened by John’s relationship with my food instead of fostering a relationship with Liz’s cooking.
But I can teach her.If the same thing had happened to you, what would you have done? Would you have been silent until the truth came out, like me? Or would you have retaliated immediately?