“What Dream Project do I Want to Launch in 2021?”


My parents love to claim that their cooking is “world famous.” Seemingly, each new dish that appeared in front of my sister and me on the dinner table garnered the coveted title. Out of all the dishes that my parents make, however, only one truly lives up to the title: my mother’s baked chicken on Sundays. 

It isn’t every Sunday when my mom makes her baked chicken. The meticulous coating of each piece in egg wash and breadcrumbs is time-consuming. But when she does serve it, she of course tops the meal off with spoonfuls of collard greens. The warmth of our kitchen was a shelter from winter’s cold sting outside, and the smell of collard greens slow-cooking all day allured me to stay inside. These meals were so important to me because my parents often made an effort to mesh their cultures together. Sundays’ batches of collard greens were often cooked with my dad’s favorite Polish sausage. 

Admittedly, I am a terrible chef. My grandmother often encourages me to learn how to cook like my mother — not only to entertain but to carry on the traditional and familial dishes my mother resurrected from her family and in-laws. Maybe my 2021 project will be to unlock my hidden culinary skills, proving myself to be a prodigy.

I have had endeavors with cooking in the past, though. During Michigan’s Stay-at-Home Executive Orders last spring, I decided to fulfill my spare time by doing something productive. To finally learn how to cook, I forced myself to try vegetarianism. This way, I knew I would have to make my own meals, as I would be the only member of my family with dietary restrictions. This experiment, however, only lasted a month, as I eventually grew tired of eating beans due to my lack of culinary creativity.

I never intended on setting a New Year’s Resolution for 2021. With past failures in cooking, I knew my resolution would be unsuccessful before I even set it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that learning how to cook is more than a mere desire to better myself for the future: it is a reflection on all of my favorite memories that surround food. Whether it be Friday night waffles or take-out with my friends, cooking breakfast with loved ones, or my mother’s Sunday dinners, cuisine has brought me closer to people throughout my life. Thus, my New Year’s Resolution to cook is more a catalyst to help cherish the memories I have made. 

The hardships of 2020 posed an opportunity for me to gain a unique sense of maturity. To live with healthcare professionals and an elderly family member at incredibly high risk of Covid-19 made me recognize the severity of the pandemic. And during the months spent at home — some of which have now been filled with online classes — I have realized the importance of cherishing every moment spent with someone else. Food has always been a great means for bonding and bringing people together, and maybe my newly unlocked culinary skills in 2021 will allow me to participate in this act. 

Or more importantly, 2021 will allow me to reflect on every shared moment — involving food or not.