onions make me cry

We got a new stove. I cooked on it for the first time last night. I never cooked anything other than pasta or oatmeal on the old stove. We’ve lived here 6 months.

Before that we lived in a condo for 2 years. I can’t recall cooking food on that stove more than maybe 5 times.  I think the responsibility for our strained relationship is probably more my fault than the stove’s.

I clearly have some issues with food. I’ll get into the eating issues another day. But I want to talk about the food prep barrier that I have. It’s big. Berlin wall style big.

Three years ago when I had my first post-baby hypomanic episode (the big “something’s really wrong and we can’t ignore it anymore” moment), I remember deciding that someone else needed to feed the kids. I just couldn’t feed them. Ever.

And someone else did. I owe so much to my husband and my mother-in-law and their whole family. She had to leave the country that summer for 10 days and she prepared homemade frozen dinners for the kids to have each night. And my father-in-law is awesome and prepared a ‘picnic’ of fruits and veggies when he picked up my kids every day before he fed them dinner.

I don’t know why I couldn’t do it. But I just couldn’t feed my children. I couldn’t make the food and I also couldn’t serve it to them. It gave me too much anxiety and since there were others who could fill that task, I had to free myself of it.

Making them breakfast sometimes last year when I planned ahead was an accomplishment. For snacks, I could cut raw veggies or fruit.

When I started juicing, it forced me to start getting comfortable working in the kitchen, cutting vegetables and preparing something edible. Because it was the same thing every day and I was primarily making it for myself (with my husband getting some as a bonus), it seemed less anxiety provoking.

So last night, when I didn’t like the idea of drinking raw juice from the cauliflower that was about to go bad in my fridge, I decided to try out my new stove and make cauliflower carrot soup. I knew carrots. I peel carrots each night for my carrot juice. Soup is just boiled veggies. I’ll just put them in a pot instead of a juicer. It felt safe.

Things started out okay. I chopped up onions, celery, garlic, carrots, cauliflower, pepper. I can chop veggies in my kitchen – just like juicing. Then it came time to start cooking the soup. I had to sautee the onions and celery. That’s when the onions made me cry.

How could heating up some onions and celery in a pot feel so horrible? It just brought up so many strong memories of standing stirring a pot of onions while my mom cooked. Of her cutting the vegetables because I did it in the wrong direction, or too big, or too slowly, or too small. Of my arm getting tired stirring food that I knew didn’t require an entire person to do. Of having to make conversation with her while I stirred (and making sure the topics didn’t slide into anything that would make her mad at me).

These feelings seem so unreal. They are so hard to put words to. Because from the outside, the situation may have looked perfectly normal. A kid or teen helping prepare dinner in the kitchen with mom. Seems okay. No kids like helping make dinner. Normal. Right? Maybe. I think there was more to it.

So, last night as I added the rest of the vegetables to the soup, it started to smell kinda good. Like soup cooking but then it made me feel even worse. And I realized that I had used the same recipe that my mom used to use. I was making her soup. Fuck.

The reason for the tears was not entirely what I expected. It wasn’t just the nostalgia or regret – it was fear and it was betrayal.  I had a strong feeling that I was betraying my mother in the worst possible way. Which is weird. I’ve mostly come to terms with cutting her out of my life and denying her access to her grandchildren.

But to go ahead and just make her soup? What kind of a monster am I? She’s going to call me on it. (as if, she will telepathically know that I made soup in the house she doesn’t know that I live in.) The feeling and the fear just hurt so so much.

If I allow myself to think about it, which I try not to, I guess I could figure out why I hate cooking. The kitchen was a room where I was guilted into “helping” her by “keeping her company” and allowing her to order me around to do menial tasks. Lest she be alone while she cooked- with no one to witness her culinary glory.

I would peel potatoes under freezing running water until my hands hurt, tear lettuce under freezing water for salad I never ate, I would stir a pot for hours on end, put silver foil on a baking sheet, set the table hours in advance, hold the hand mixer forever to beat eggs for a cake.  I could always do a piece of a task to “help” her but the most important help she taught me, was ‘keeping her company’.

I don’t think she ever let me just cut up a bunch of veggies. I always did it wrong. So it wasn’t something I did. Maybe that’s why cutting veggies is the one thing that I like doing in the kitchen. Because it’s new to me. It’s part of new me, not my old shitty life. And I can cut them however the fuck I feel like it. There’s no wrong way to chop a carrot!

Apparently the soup turned out well. I couldn’t eat it. I can’t serve it to my kids either.

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