Today my husband went through something I remember far too well myself. He cooked a few (delicious!) Peruvian dishes since we had a friend coming over for a Road to Morocco movie night. After the careful shopping, chopping and assembling, both the causa and mushroom ceviche were ready. When I arrived home from work I saw nothing but disappointment and frustration on his face. Then he uttered those oh too familiar words, “it just doesn’t taste the same.” He explained that the potato wasn’t good and the avocado was weird. So with a heart full of fear I tasted a small corner of the dish. Delicious. But to someone who grew up tasting what it “should” be like, it was wrong, completely wrong.
I remember many muffins that came out too hard, cookies too grainy, sauces too salty and so much worse because the ingredients acted differently than I expected them to based on my past experience in the US. And choosing substitutes was even more frustrating all together. Did I ever mention the time I broke down crying in the cheese section of the grocery store because I didn’t know which one would taste like back home?
For those expats far from home, cooking can be comforting and infuriating at the same time. It took me days to assemble a semblance of a Thanksgiving meal. But after all those hours of cooking (from scratch) it finally felt familiar. And with just a nibble of a peanut butter blossom I felt like I could sit down for hours chatting with my mother. But if it’s off, and that hope of perfection lingers in only a memory, there is nothing more heartbreaking.