You know that scene in Gilmore Girls where Rory cries to her mom about her boyfriend? (Okay, yeah, that's every scene). I never did that. But my high school girlfriends did. They would gush to me about going to their mothers about advice on love, school gossip, friendship drama, and literally anything else on their mind. I distinctly remember being at a friend's house, listening to her give a play-by-play, in excruciating detail, to her mom of a movie date she had just gone on....with a boy! alone! in a dark theatre!
I was simultaneously annoyed and jealous. Why was she sharing so much with her mom! Was that even okay? And honestly? It took years for me to be fine with those feelings.
Don’t get me wrong—I certainly love my mom—but we definitely do not have that super-close Gilmore Girls–type connection. We never did. She is firm but understanding, a hard worker, an amazing cook, and she has impeccable taste in clothes and art and movies. But more than anything, she's always been an authority figure. She works as a software programmer in the airline industry, and she traveled for business when I was a kid. Meaning: She was gone a lot, off negotiating deals or meeting with clients.
So when we talked, it was about pragmatic matters: college-essay topics, the grade I got on my science test, what kind of dal she was making for dinner. I can recall on one hand the number of times my mom picked me up for school or volunteered on a field trip...unlike my friends' moms, many of whom always seemed to be available to whip up cookies for a bake sale and chaperone dances.
Seeing my friends have these intimate, sisterly relationships with their mothers really got to me for a while. It felt like there was something broken: Did I love her less? Did she love me less? But I still was hungry for that Rory-Lorelai bond. I tested out connecting with my mom on a more personal level in high school. I tried talking about my devastating breakup with my high school boyfriend and, a little later on, a boy I was crushing on. But she didn’t really know what to say, and it kind of felt like she wanted to leave those convos ASAP.
Some context: My mom grew up in India, where the culture was so different (she wed my father in an arranged marriage at age 20). And she didn’t really enjoy gabbing. So to be fair, it wasn't me, to a certain extent—it was just who my mom was. She was a lot more sensible and rational, preferring to discuss my ambitions as a food writer than analyse a bunch of texts.
It was disappointing. I wanted to share. So I reserved those conversations for my sister or my friends. And as the years went by, I became less self-conscious about it. I knew, instinctively, when to go to my mom (school or career stuff) and when to go to my sister (boys), or my many aunts and uncles who lived nearby (drama with my mom or my sister). My mom welcomed this though. Sometime while I was in college, she told me she knew that even as my mom, she couldn't be everything I needed at all times—even if I wanted her to be.
I got to know her in a different way though, when I became a food writer and started asking her questions about the meals she made for our family growing up. I even published some of her amazing (seriously, so good) recipes. After that, an editor approached me about working with my mom to create a cookbook about the dishes we grew up with. I was intrigued because I had never seen our kind of Indian cooking made accessible for modern American families.
But I was also so, so hesitant. The only mother-daughter cookbooks I had ever read were all about that Gilmore Girls life. (Cue the glossy images of look-alike women hugging and laughing while spending 12 hours in the kitchen making lasagna. My mom, meanwhile, had 30 disciplined minutes to make roti pizza.)
But after some conversations with my editor (my exact words were: "This is not going to be a 'cooking with Grandma' kind of situation!"), I decided to write something true to our dynamic. And turns out, our relationship worked to our advantage. She treated the book like any other project on her to-do list.
She diligently wrote 100 recipes at night, after her already demanding full-time job. She let her house be overrun by cameras and splattered foods. She managed and organized our time so we could get the manuscript submitted by our deadline. She hosted a photo shoot at her house, serving the whole team chai every day at 4 p.m. Together, we were crazy productive and efficient. We produced a killer book—and it wasn’t because we were sharing every little detail of our personal lives with one another.
Now that I'm over that whole teenage angst thing, I can acknowledge that our bond has always been quiet, thoughtful, and steady. It was (and is!) incredibly strong—just not in that whole, Here are my deepest darkest secrets way.
And to be honest? I prefer it like this.