A Son And Mother, Together In Their Separate Kitchens
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
This pandemic has been bringing families together, literally, for those now spending 24/7 with them in the same home. But what if your family isn't physically close? Phillip Picardi has written a piece for Bon Appetit magazine titled "It Took A Global Pandemic, But I'm Finally Calling My Mom." And he joins us now. Welcome.
PHILLIP PICARDI: Thank you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So start by telling us a little bit about your mom and your family.
PICARDI: My mom is pretty much the classic Italian American mother. So she has five children. And I always remember, when it was dinner time, my father would come home from work, and Mom would have a three-course meal ready to go. And we didn't know in my family that this was abnormal until we started inviting our friends over. And our friends would be shocked that there was a custom salad and then a pasta and then a protein, accompanied by sides. And, you know...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're talking a multi-course meal here.
PICARDI: Yes, for every single day of the week. And we all had to be seated around the table. We couldn't start until everyone was present. No televisions or screens could be on. And we all had to sit and enjoy each other's company. And so food was, you know, how we all got to spend time together.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It sounds lovely, but I understand that as you got older and after you left home, sort of picking up the phone and just calling your parents wasn't the easiest thing to do. Your relationship, you explained, didn't sort of lend itself to easy conversation. Can you tell us about that?
PICARDI: I can, yeah. I came out of the closet when I was 14 years old. And my mom in particular took my coming out pretty hard. Even though, you know, I think that she definitely had my best interests at heart, she took it personally, and it made things difficult for us. It made it difficult for us to communicate. And it really wasn't until last year where we had a real breakthrough in our relationship where we were able to talk about that period of time and how it had hurt me so much. And I remember my mom just kind of saying, like, I was just so worried for you. And I just wanted the best for you. And I'm sorry that, you know, I made it about me and that I hurt your feelings. And it really allowed for this wall to be kind of torn down between the two of us.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So now that we're in this particular moment, tell us how this relationship has sort of evolved and changed.
PICARDI: I think the biggest thing is that I didn't realize how much I took for granted the fact that I had two parents who were alive and well and what could happen to my heart when I was physically being kept from seeing them and how much it would hurt me. And so it really wasn't until this moment that I started to grapple with their mortality. Obviously, we know coronavirus is impacting the elderly particularly hard. My mom recently battled breast cancer, so she's immunocompromised. And I think I was keenly aware of her fragility in this moment. And it has made me want to hug her more than ever before, maybe since I was a little kid. And so, yeah, it's sad that it took this moment and being so far away from her, but all I want to do is talk to my mom lately.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And you're cooking with her.
PICARDI: You know, that's how we show our love in my family. We were never a super affectionate or touchy-feely family. We - you know, I can count really on one hand the amount of times I've heard my father say, I love you. And it's not for a lack of love. Truly, I - it's hard for a lot of people to understand that. I always felt loved. So cooking was our way of saying everything that we couldn't really say.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: When was the last time that you cooked with her, and what did you make?
PICARDI: So we cooked earlier this week. I made a homemade pizza dough. My grandmother was famous, you know, for having dough always in her freezer or homemade pasta ready to go just in case company would come over - you know, just classic little snacking foods (laughter). So I was terribly worried that I had overworked the dough because it rose so much that it kind of burst through the Ziploc container I had kept it in in the fridge, so I had to FaceTime my mom to do a texture test with her. And then she kind of supervised as I was rolling it out. And she, obviously, saw the finished product and approved. And so I made another pizza the following night with truffle honey and ricotta cheese. And again, that was - of her recommendation. And so that's what we made this week.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: In your article, you have a beautiful turn of phrase - I don't know if I can remember it exactly, but it's about how this moment has shown how expansive her love is. I don't remember exactly what you wrote. Do you recall?
PICARDI: I think the thing that I said there was I can't believe that I had gone this far in my life without fully understanding the scope of my mother's love, and now I feel like I understand it more. As we've been cooking together, one of the things she encourages me to do is always think of my fiance. My fiance's an emergency medicine doctor in Queens, so he's been fighting the coronavirus and treating his patients. And so something she's passed on to me more recently is the idea that it's my duty to take care of him - to make sure he feels loved when he comes home. So that's what we do together when we are cooking now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Phillip Picardi is an editor based in New York. His piece in the Bon Appetit magazine is called "It Took A Global Pandemic, But I'm Finally Calling My Mom." By the way, what is your mom's name?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Marianne. Thank you very much to you and to Marianne.
PICARDI: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MASSANE'S "NO RETURN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.