By Alexa DiFrancesco
“I will clean up,” your father announces, tearing a roll of paper towel with a steady force. He wants to save your mother the trouble.
She’d broken a plate after cooking.
From the other room, your sister places damp hands onto her waist and questions,
Is it safe to come in?
You have an egg allergy,
she was eating scrambled egg and she
– she didn’t mean to –
she hurled greasy fingers into the dough
because you were kneading too slowly for your mother’s liking.
Your mother snaps at her instantly. Because, although she won’t admit it, you are her favourite child.
You have come to understand it’s because you come to understand too slowly.
Your sister immediately understood the backhanded remarks about her inability to cook.
She needs to marry a man who can cook.
She asserts that she doesn’t need a man for anything.
She feeds herself every day, while your mother is at work,
and afterwards, she hears accusations of not finishing a bagel and cup of yogurt hours before.
Your dad tosses them in the garbage disposal, offering to clean up.
I apologize for the shift in tenses. My English teacher reminds me repeatedly of how important it is to start an essay with an opening hook. He also stresses that I be consistent in pronouns, but this isn’t English class; this is Food and Nutrition. I understand that the assignment guidelines stated that I could have followed any recipe –
“….so why not a pizza, with anchovies?”
suggests my dad. If you didn’t already know, he’s Italian, so
dough is the sole thing my Pakistani mother knows how to knead.
She burns all she puts in the oven.
It reminds me of my father comparing my leg’s tone to his –
Isn’t this how you teachers tell us to show what we know?
Text to self.
Text to text.
Text to the world.
I thought so.
Anyways, it also reminds me of when my father asked whether or not I prefer to eat tomatoes topped on pizza.
He’d read it stunts growth.
He measures I’ll be an inch shorter than him when I’m fully grown.
“As long as I carry fewer pounds,” I’d joked,
and my mother instantly apologized for scolding my sister. She asked for a photo to be taken of the meal I made.
My sister’s photography has always been a talent which my mother took pride in.
She watched in awe as my sister
moves the camera to the sun, (so the cheese would look lighter) and
tilts it to the side (so the crust would appear thinner).
In short, the attached photo is why my father couldn’t clean this mess up.
My sister’s tears blurred the lenses because she didn’t want me to have
memory of a chaotic family, let alone to
submit it as a paper
to be graded and given worth.
But you should know that, usually, my family weeps in bathrooms and cleans in kitchens.
This precautionary measure makes me prouder than anyone I know.
Prouder than my friends,
whose parents threaten divorce
and organize counselling for their sisters’ eating disorders.
We simply remind ourselves of
the importance of washing hands upon entering a kitchen,
the importance of owning a broom,
the importance of cleaning our plates either after or before eating.
Next week, my mother says to assign a recipe I’m not allergic to, or she’ll speak to the principal.
Alexa DiFrancesco is a second year undergraduate at The University of Toronto Scarborough, where she’s pursuing an HBA in French (Co-op) and Creative Writing. Alexa is a featured writer for both Her Campus U Toronto and The Varsity and is the Executive Editor of UTSC’s Margins Magazine. Alexa wrote “What I Cooked Using Eggshells This Week” after a conflict with family members. Through this piece, Alexa reflects on the boundaries of her own family’s dynamics while subtly exploring issues such as eating disorders and feminism. Alexa is honoured for her work to be featured in Boundaries!
Photo credit: Anna Schvets on Unsplash