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When Mum Is Essential (Not Just to Me)

(by Keira Smith)

My mum is my best friend. We’ve had our ups and downs (all families do) but we’ve always been pretty close. Everyone tends to say that we look alike. Personally, I can’t see it; she’s got lovely tanned skin and a well-proportioned face, while I’m only blessed with that gorgeous tan five percent of the time, and I’ve got my dad’s chin and nose. Not bad, but it sometimes takes me aback to see my face in pictures. Mum and I act very much alike, though. I am as bonkers as she is, or maybe she’s as bonkers as I am. We share a music taste and a sense of humor. Our favorite pastime is laughing at tacky, poorly designed house ornaments. I think it’s our favorite part of Christmas.

Christmas was the last time we saw each other in person. I’m at university now, 100 miles from my family, so it’s hard to see each other regularly. And my mum is an ambulance technician. It means she has a role to play in making sure a patient gets the best treatment possible. She’s saved people’s lives; she’s delivered babies; for some people, she’s been a hero. It also means that her work schedule is manic at the best of times, and it’s safe to say that in this time of lockdown, we are very far away from the best of times.

I’m not resentful. I’m really proud of my mum and what she does. But there’s no way around it: For the foreseeable future, I can’t see her in person, and I worry. She’s out there putting her health on the line to continue helping people during this time. The rational part of my brain screams at me because I know that she will be okay. She has the training and the equipment needed to keep her and others safe, plus she’s sensible (obviously I got it from somewhere). But all that doesn’t change the fact that that is my mum, my best friend, and there’s nothing that can really put away those worries of her possibly contracting the disease or when I’ll next be able to see her.

It makes me angry seeing people not taking the precautions seriously because it hurts those who are at greater risk than I, but also the longer this worldwide crisis goes on, the longer it will be until I see my mum. I wasn’t lucky enough to get back home before lockdown, and I’m not going to risk trying it now. I don’t know if I’ll see her next month, in the next six months, or next year. I don’t know if she’ll make my graduation (if we get a graduation). I hate this situation. I hate this uncertainty. I just miss my mum.

So what can I do to get rid of this feeling of helplessness and worry while staying productive at the same time? I’ve been doing a lot of batch cooking. My mum made it her mission to teach me how to cook healthy meals before I moved away. Soups, pasta dishes, anything that you can make a lot of and make easily on a budget. She’s had plenty of practice after working weeks of 12 to 16 hour shifts. So in the months leading up to me moving away, I was called into the kitchen to be shown how to make these dishes. She didn’t take into account that I am not a particularly skilled cook, nor really had a desire to learn. My sauce for mac and cheese is always too floury, and my soups often have to be scrubbed off the bottom of the pot. Ready-made meals are just so easy. But if student life has taught me anything, it’s that there’s only so much take-away and frozen pizza before you really start missing your mum’s food. It’s something that hits you one day when you’re staring down at the noodles that you’ve had for dinner five nights in a row, and when it hits, it hits hard.

Luckily, while on lockdown (and ignoring that mountain of school work sitting in the corner), it seems I’ve retained some of Mum’s lessons, and now have nothing but time to perfect the recipes. So far, I’ve only managed to master Scotch broth. It’s probably the easiest soup to make, but it’s something! And I’ve found the process of making soup relaxing. Maybe because it feels like I’m being productive. At the end of the day, I can say, “I made this. This is what I did today.” Maybe it’s because the process reminds me of Mum. When I’m making soup, I finally feel like the comparison between us is apt. Whatever it is, the soup tastes good. As cliché as it sounds, it feels like a hug when you’re eating it. It’s a little reminder of home during this trying time, and it’s a little hope that all this will be over soon, and I can let Mum taste just how good my soups gotten. Let’s hope she doesn’t ask how I am at mac and cheese; the sauce still needs some work.

Keira Smith is a graduating honors student of Drama and Performance, living in Inverness, Scotland. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram.

Scotch Broth

(adapted from BBC Good Food)

8 oz. carrots, peeled and diced

8 oz. turnips, peeled and diced

2 onions, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1 leek, white part only, sliced

3 – 4 oz. pearl barley

4 oz. dried peas, soaked in water for 4 - 5 hours, drained

salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 pts. lamb or mutton stock

3 oz. kale, chopped (optional)

Heat all the ingredients, except the kale, in a large saucepan until boiling.

Reduce heat and simmer gently 2 - 3 hours, or until the peas and pearl barley are soft.

Stir in the kale, and cook for a further 10 - 12 minutes, or until the kale is tender.

Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


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