How To Cook Like a Syrian: Making My Mother’s Matbucha
I never wanted to learn to make my mother’s matbucha, a savory eggplant salad–until I became a mom-to-be
I filled a pot with water and ground cinnamon and waited for the sweet scent to mask my failure. I pulled a Tupperware of my mom’s matbucha from the freezer. It would defrost just in time for Irv’s arrival. I felt relieved I hadn’t told him what I set out to do that day. At least only I knew how dire the situation had become. As I lit the candles that night, I prayed I would find fulfillment from kitchen duty. My cabinets overflowed with my mother’s Tupperware, and I feared she would soon send me home with baby food, too.
The following Thursday, I decided to trek back to my mother’s home, where I knew she would already be preparing for Shabbat. As I turned onto her block, she waved from the porch and blew kisses like she used to when I stepped off the school bus. I followed her through the living room where she once spent evenings helping me with homework, through the dining room where we lit Shabbat candles together, and into the kitchen where she taught my siblings and me a new vocabulary word over breakfast each morning.
“Let’s begin,” she said. Her bangles clanked together as she tossed me an apron.
We spent the next few hours dicing and stirring eggplants and tomatoes into her masterpiece. She gets so much joy from this, I thought. Joy from cooking, but also joy that I need her even as a grown, married woman. It’s how she raised me. I looked down at my baby bump and hoped I would do the same. I might not ever be the perfect Syrian Jewish mother, but I would always be something even luckier: the daughter of one.
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