Joy is taboo for some of us parents. Can food free us?
AI-generated illustration of a father-son in the centre of a food maze. Courtesy: Canva. Yeah. Scary good.

Joy is taboo for some of us parents. Can food free us?

Cooking as resistance.

Tanmoy Goswami

Welcome to today's edition of my series on parenting and mental health. Our theme for the day: food, pain, memory, parenting, and why it is so hard for some of us to model joy before our children.

Yesterday, my son and I tried a recipe for Cantonese-style scrambled eggs (verdict: pretty good, you should try it). We've recently started cooking together. He's been his mother's sous chef since he was 3, making focaccia bread and cheesecake and rajma chaawal and whatnot together, but I had to wait to replicate the ritual with him because I am a carnivore and he didn't eat non-veg until he turned 5.

Also because, usually, I want to be left alone when I am in the kitchen. I have no shame in admitting to you that it's been a challenge for me to learn to see the wholesome side of the chaos and mess that are part of a 5-year-old's job description. "You can do tricky things, Tanmoy," I find myself muttering when the countertop overflows with spilled yolk and milk and sunflower oil, in the same singsong tone I use with my son. (God that tone is so irritating. Sorry son.)

I want to believe that food can be my salvation as a parent with chronic self-doubt and the mortal dread that I might have genetically infected my son. Not necessarily in the sense that the parenting-advice industry will tell you. Sample this from "Eating meals together just might be the ultimate parenting hack. What else can you do in an hour that will improve your kids' academic performance, increase their self-esteem, improve cardiovascular health, and reduce their risk of substance misuse, depression, teen pregnancy, and obesity?"

A study in Japan showed that home cooking helps create positive caregiver-child interactions, because caregivers tend to use cooking time to 'talk about their own and others’ emotions with their children, teaching their children how to deal not only with school-related problems but also with other emotional problems'.

All that's great. But the reason I want to lean on food in my parenting is because it's the only way I know to model joy before my child.

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