When your husband thinks his mom’s the world’s best cook, should you compete?

casaveneracion.com When your husband thinks his mom’s the world’s best cook, should you compete?

During the early years of our marriage, meals were sometimes occasions for annoyance. I’d cook something, Speedy would comment that his mother’s version of the dish was different and I’d go into a fit. At first it was just an annoyance but, over time, it became a constant irritation. You know, like a splinter under the nail or a fish bone caught between the teeth which, although not exactly painful, you just itch to pry out anyway for your own mental and emotional well-being.

I knew other wives who had it worse. One wife, not a good cook at all, would prepare meals the best that she could. I mean, I’d give her an A+ for sheer effort. But the darn husband? He’d tell her all the time to please call his mother and ask how she cooked this and that dish. Since it didn’t seem to bother her, I kept my mouth shut. If she was okay with being his doormat, who was I to object? But I wasn’t like her.

You can’t dislodge your mother-in-law from the pedestal on which your husband has installed her.

Looking back, Speedy probably never meant any of those comments as criticisms, that he probably just missed his mother’s cooking (who, by the way, is a darn good cook) and was showing appreciation for her. But whether he admits it or not, there’s that subconscious attempt to draw a comparison. And I was a young wife who was proud of my cooking, so, there were ugly scenes. He was insensitive and I was egotistical. There were times when I told him, literally, to go back home to his mother. Well, we’ve both grown up. But the road from then to now was long and arduous. It took years but, in the end, he stopped doing it probably without even consciously realizing that he had.

How did that happen? I went on a well thought out campaign. If you’re a young wife or a soon-to-be wife and your partner has a tendency to worship his mother’s cooking, read on.

First, realize that you don’t want to compete. Creating a competition is silly because it is impossible to win. You can’t dislodge your mother-in-law from the pedestal on which your husband has installed her. Why would you want to, anyway?

When I tried to rationalize my outbursts back then, the first thing I realized was that I did not want to live in the shadow of my mother-in-law. I was not going to alter my cooking style in the hope that Speedy would talk about my cooking as lovingly as he did his mother’s. I didn’t want him to talk about me or what I did or how I did things as though I were his mother. Marriage, after all, is a partnership, not a parent-child relationship. Neither was I a dog looking for a pat on the head, and he my master. And I analyzed, quite rationally, how I was going to make that point.

I know I’m a good cook; so is she. I cook with love; so did she.

The first part of the campaign was to totally get rid of any basis for comparison. Meaning? I stopped cooking dishes that his mother did, and never cooked the ones that he raved about the most. Speedy always talked with nostalgia about his mom’s saltimbocca alla Romana and how, on occasions when his parents went out as a couple, her mother would prepare cubes of tenderloin that, in their absence, Speedy and his siblings would cook, skewered, in a fondue. I never cooked those two dishes. Ever.

I stopped following patterns that his mother observed. Speedy said that whenever his mom cooked sinigang na bangus, there would always be a second dish of crisp fried bangus on the side. I hate frying and I hate picking bones of bangus. Still, I gave in some half a dozen times, the interval becoming longer and longer until I stopped cooking sinigang na bangus altogether. Instead, I cooked sinigang with some other fish — any fish except bangus — and, having lost the association, he just stopped looking for fried fish on the side.

Christmas and New Year traditions were the most difficult to overcome. In Speedy’s family, there were always “traditional” dishes served on those occasions — ham, queso de bola and fruit salad made with canned fruit cocktail. I hate queso de bola. Ham? The only time we bought a whole leg of ham for Christmas, we were still having ham on Valentine’s Day, and the girls were already whining. The fruit cocktail salad? We still make fruit salad but with fresh fruits. I can’t remember the last time we bought canned fruit cocktail. Seriously.

The thing is, I knew that if we kept replicating the Noche Buena of his childhood, it meant making room for comparisons. So, I started the roast duck tradition. No whole leg of ham; we had roast duck instead, served Chinese style with pancakes, scallions and cucumber. And no queso de bola. Last Christmas was the first in a decade that we didn’t have duck — it had become impractical because Sam turned vegetarian a year ago.

Second, and this is the more significant part, I introduced Speedy to a different world of food filled with roast duck, fish head and all the exotic Asian food that he only occasionally met when he was growing up. I involved him in the process of discovering new food and food sources — places, restaurants, food shops, delis, herbs, spices… everything. In short, we embarked on our own food journey — him, me and our daughters. The fruits of our discoveries, we’d share with his mom and siblings (in the form of dishes I’d cook for family reunions) but the journey and the adventure — that’s ours.

Speedy still talks about his mother’s cooking occasionally but more like a memory fondly and lovingly recalled rather than tinged with a subconscious attempt at comparison.

And me? What does that mean to me — proof that I’m a better cook than his mom? No, oh no. I know I’m a good cook; so is she. I cook with love; so did she. I was, however, able to get rid of the feeling that there’s a splinter under my nail and a fish bone between my teeth. And it feels darn good.





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Comments

  1. Ruth Parulan Tuvilla says

    Never had to compete with my MIL when it comes to cooking….She does not cook. She has a whole gang of daughters in law that can…. I think I was elected president of the gang hehehehe… Love this article Connie, I had already told my son never to compare my cooking with whoever he will marry. Love them for other qualities and leave the cooking to me.

  2. mariamasungit says

    I am very lucky, I don’t know how to cook Filipino food (that’s my MIL’s specialty) and she can’t bake or cook italian/japanese so there’s isn’t really a comparison.

    I think si MIL ang naiinis pag nagluto siya ng “pinoy spagetti” tapos sasabhin ng asawa ko na lagyan ng kamatis kasi matamis. go figure.

  3. says

    Mariamasungit, re pinoy spaghetti LOL I know exactly what you mean. Theirs was a generation when spaghetti sauce always included a bottle or two of UFC hehehehe

    Ruth, your son still will hehehe Sons can’t help it. You and your future daughter-in-law can laugh about it.

  4. Maricel says

    Love this post. Have had no problems like this but a cousin in law has the same problem. Sharing this so she can read it too :)

    • NIna says

      Hahaha, nice post. Remembered a similar situation when we were newly married and brought the subject during lunchtime with former co-workers (here in the US). One of the comments, that until now, I laugh hard whenever I remember was, “When my husband told me his mother’s meatballs are better, I told him to go back to his mother and ask him to cook the meatballs as well as ask her to scratch his balls.” You can believe the poor husband never repeated the same comment!

  5. archoo16 says

    He loves my cooking. But he likes his mom’s omelette with ginger garlic paste mixed in the eggs. I hate it so i never make it that way. When he said ask my mom how to make this , I told him that I am not his mom. :P Rude, I know. But I just hate it. He doesn’t do that any more. But makes eggs that way when every he cooks. And I enjoy eating them because my husband made them for me.

  6. Samantha says

    I can relate to this too. My husband’s late mother was not only a good cook, but an excellent baker. He raves on about her cakes and desserts a lot. I have no bench space in my tiny kitchen and no mixer so I just don’t go there. BUT it’s different when it comes to savory food, for example he used to love his mother’s potato salad, and he told me the recipe. I followed it, because I want to make my husband happy like that (I know, crazy huh?). So I put in my own touches, as I trust my own taste buds, and used my own favourite mayonnaise and mustard (not sure what his mother had used) – and now my husband says he prefers MY potato salad. I didn’t do it to compete with her, but only to give him a taste of his childhood again to make him happy. It gratifies me nonetheless that he likes my version anyway :-)

    • says

      Some husbands are open-minded and adventurous, willing to try new things. You’re lucky yours is like that. I know some men (some are friends and relatives hahaha) who can’t seem to move on, like they’re stuck in their mother’s kitchens and aren’t aware.

  7. Mik says

    My MIL cooks the same things over and over because they all (except my husband) have boring, unadventurous palates, hehe.
    I remember when we visited and his mom was saying she was going to make his favorite chocolate cake, so she baked a cake. My husband was excited, took one bite and carefully schooled his expression to neutral and said it was very nice, thank you. Out of earshot, he looked over at me , mouthed “packet mix!” and made a face hehe

      • Mik says

        Haha when we have to visit, we always place bets on what’s for dinner:
        Steak and sausages on the barby
        Roast chicken/beef/pork with over steamed veggies and mash

        I always have to pack food for my daughter haha

  8. Tet Ligon says

    When we were newly married, my mum lived with us and she was a great cook. Now that we have moved to Sydney, miles apart from my mum, the greatest compliment I would get from hubby is when I cook something and he’d proudly say, “parang luto ni mama.” Best feeling ever :D

  9. says

    Mik, you know, I think most of it has to do with one generation (our parents) sticking to what’s popular during their youth while the other generation (us children) develops appreciation for a wider variety of food and higher standards of cooking. I’m seeing it with my own kids now that they’re adults. LOL

    Tet, might be a gene thing, you getting it from your mom. :)

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