What Activities or Hobbies Do You Do With Your Family?

What Activities or Hobbies Do You Do With Your Family?

Is there an activity or hobby you like to do with your family, or with one family member in particular, such as your mother, a sibling, a cousin, a grandparent or an uncle?

Do you cook together? Play board games? Listen to music? Watch sports?

If not, is there an activity you’d like to start doing with your family?

In the essay “I Didn’t Truly Know My Mother Until I Cooked With Her,” the New York Times food reporter and cookbook author Priya Krishna writes about early memories of being in the kitchen with her mother and what it has meant to her. She begins:

My mother and I were not the “Gilmore Girls.”

Growing up, I didn’t open up to her about the people I had crushes on, the friend groups that were on the outs or who was invited to whose bat mitzvah.

But I did help her cook. Every day, when she came home from the office, I’d set up my textbooks on the kitchen island and pretend to do my homework, while really, I was gazing at my mother, the inimitable Ritu Krishna, as she deftly sizzled spices in ghee and smacked the valve of the pressure cooker closed with a spoon when it whistled. Partway through her cooking, I’d be summoned to wash chiles, chop cilantro or taste the food for salt.

We are opposites, my mother and I. Where she is poised, classy and no-nonsense, I am goofy, outgoing, a people pleaser. My whole childhood, we struggled to find common ground. We weren’t just from different generations. My mother was an immigrant from India; I was an American kid trying to navigate the world without a language to understand my identity. It was also very intimidating to have a mother who wakes up looking as if she just got a blowout, who is deeply admired by all her friends and co-workers, and who doesn’t wear deodorant because she, in her own words, “doesn’t smell.” I didn’t know how I would ever live up to the standards she set for me, let alone for herself.

But when she cooked, she was at her most accessible — changed out of whatever fashionable outfit she had worn that day, her hair pulled back with a clip, bobbing her head to Abba or Strunz and Farah as she nursed a glass of wine. In the kitchen, our relationship hummed.

On my birthday, we would make a chocolate cake from a Betty Crocker dessert cookbook together, decorating the top with rose petals and doilies. When I was gifted a children’s cookbook with a recipe for “green spaghetti” (pesto) — we made it one night and marveled at what would become our new favorite pasta sauce.

She also reflects on how cooking together shaped their relationship:

I don’t think I realized it at the time, but cooking was one of the few ways we could really understand each other. As I got older, I became only more angsty, more rebellious, more frustrated by our generational and cultural differences. Yet I still wanted to cook alongside her, and she still wanted my company in the kitchen. Maybe she didn’t get the social significance of a grand prom-posal, and maybe I didn’t get why she wouldn’t let me drive with music on, but we both understood that this pot of beans would be greatly enhanced with a drizzle of tamarind chutney and a fistful of chopped red onion.

I was socialized to want a mother who was my best friend. Instead, I got one who awed, inspired and slightly terrified me. It took me a long time to appreciate her for who she is. But our path to mutual appreciation was paved in the kitchen. There’s something about cooking together — doing menial, repetitive tasks like washing vegetables or measuring spices (not that my mother did any measuring) — that makes conversation and connection easier. It lowers the stakes.

Students, read the entire essay and then tell us:

  • Does anything in the essay remind you of an activity or hobby you do with a family member or another special person in your life? If so, how has it shaped your relationship? Do you feel closer to the person because of this time you spend together? What have you learned from and about one another through this activity?

  • Tell us about one specific memory of doing that activity with that person. Be vivid in your description and use sensory details. What does this moment mean to you, looking back on it now?

  • If you don’t have a shared interest or hobby with a family member, is there something you’ve wanted to try, or get more into? Can you think of someone in your family who might be interested in learning or trying out the activity with you?

  • Ms. Krishna writes of her mother, “I don’t think I realized it at the time, but cooking was one of the few ways we could really understand each other.” She also notes that it was hard to find common ground with her mother when she was younger. Have you ever felt something similar? Do you sometimes find it hard to connect with your parents? What, if anything, have you found that has helped you bond? What advice would you give to someone else in this position?

  • As you know, Ms. Krishna went on to become a food writer. Do you think that any of your current interests, hobbies, activities or pursuits could be something you do for life, perhaps even as your career?

  • Does the essay you just read make you want to get in the kitchen to cook or bake? If so, who do you want there with you? Do you know how to cook and bake? If you do, who taught you?

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.

Find more Student Opinion questions here. Teachers, check out this guide to learn how you can incorporate these prompts into your classroom.