Food Is the Language of Love in My Mother-in-Law’s Kitchen

Tiny potatoes from my mother-in-law’s garden still litter the floor in the corner of our kitchen, ready to serve up their starchy delights in several more meals. Slices of crispy fried shaobing, my mother-in-law’s specialty flatbread, and heaping bags of the local smoked tofu from her village still cram the shelves of our freezer. We’ve barely dug into the jar of my mother-in-law’s mouthwatering homemade pickled kale, which perks up just about every stir-fried and stewed dish you could imagine, and we still have two more we haven’t even opened yet. And in the third drawer down next to the sink, bundles of rice noodles from my mother-in-law’s pantry have fed us for weeks already.

Whenever I gaze upon this abundance of flavors and foods for our next lunch or dinner, it reminds me of my mother-in-law and her boundless love for us, most often translated through treasures from her kitchen.

Like most Chinese parents, she would never say “I love you”, a phrase constantly showered upon me during my childhood. But over the years, I’ve found it in flavors of her lovingly prepared dishes, as well as in the items from her kitchen, pantry and garden that she always urges us to take home, with a forcefulness no less potent than any verbal declaration of affection.

Food has become a delicious means to bind us closer together, across cultures and continents. One of my favorite things to talk to my mother-in-law about is her home recipes, which I’ve come to miss since moving to Beijing. Sometimes we’ll call her on the phone, where I’ll ask her how to prepare potato cakes, a tempting stir-fry that turns these root vegetables into buttery cake-like morsels tossed with hot peppers and garlic. Or inquire about how much of the pickled kale I should use to make her classic tofu with pickled vegetables, a mouthwatering take on bean curd that transports me right back to her kitchen in the village.

Whenever she lovingly repeats every step with care and concern, making sure I understand her techniques, and patiently answers my questions, I know what she’s really saying to me. And it warms my heart, even long after we’ve said goodbye.

Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up now and receive an email whenever I publish new blog posts. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )
gifts to china Booking.com

4 thoughts on “Food Is the Language of Love in My Mother-in-Law’s Kitchen

  • June 14, 2019 at 4:18 am
    Permalink

    What a sweet post! You’re absolutely right that food is the language of love for Chinese families. Another way of asking how are you in Cantonese is have you eaten :P. I connect with my future mother in law in the kitchen too-I make red bean cake for CNY and she keeps our kitchen stocked with noodles. Speaking of food, since you’ve lived in China, do you find that people often comment if you use chopsticks (such as being impressed or ask if you would prefer a fork)? When I go to Hong Kong I’m usually complimented on my chopstick use and Cantonese even if neither is very good haha.

    Reply
    • June 24, 2019 at 10:27 am
      Permalink

      Thanks so much for the comment! Cute that you’ve also connected with your future MIL through food (always nice to have lots of noodles stocked in your kitchen!). Yes, people do often comment on my use of chopsticks, usually with compliments as you have experienced.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: