I had a friend stay with me last week, G, a girl I met in New York who was a Chinese graduate student. We hit it off and I invited her to stay with us in Barcelona while she traveled after graduating.

Having her here taught me a lot, in just a few days, about the deep cultural differences between China and the western world. Many of the things I’d often identified as issues with my mother turned out to be issues between our cultures, and I found that I was often frustrated with G in many of the same ways I was frustrated with my mother.

To make things even more confusing, I found myself reacting to G in many of the same ways my mother acts. I’ve had more experience living on my own, doing things on my own, and well, being a mother, so in many ways, I “mothered” G. This included, of course, feeding her as much and as often as possible… something my mother does to a preposterous extent.

One evening, as we were washing up from dinner, G joked that I was going to make her so fat, her mother wouldn’t recognize her. That brought me back to college, and I told her about how my mother had said to me, upon my arrival after freshman year, “Ah, you so fat!”, a statement which is somewhat horrifying to American ears. G asked how I had responded, and I incredulously replied, “I was mad, of course!” She said, “At least you could have the American response.” Now I was really surprised. What other response was there? What would she have said? She thought for a few minutes. “I would have say, ‘I’m sorry, mom, I’ll lose weight.’”

Just take a moment to let that sink in.

I’m sorry, mom, I’ll lose weight.

I’m going to do a series of posts on what I made for G during her visit. How, despite our cultural differences, and my aggravation with them, I tried to show her that I cared in a language which is truly universal. Cooking for someone. Caring for them. Being a mother, who doesn’t care how fat you might turn out from really enjoying some good cooking.

Spinach and caramelized onion pizza

Blanch, steam, or otherwise cook about 500g, about 1 lb, of spinach, washed. Chop roughly. Mix with a cup of farmer cheese – ricotta, any sort of bland, crumbly cheese will do – salt, and pepper. Spread an uncooked pizza crust – your favorite recipe, or store bought will do – with olive oil. Top the crust with the spinach mixture. This is a hefty pizza, though, so those paper thin delicate crusts probably won’t work so well.

Chop 2 onions into strips no more than 2 cm (1 inch) in length. Caramelize, over slow heat, with olive oil, a dab of butter, salt, and thyme. Spread the cooked onions over the pizza and top it all with a little more cheese – farmer’s cheese, or mozzarella if you want.

Bake until cheese is melty and crust is brown.

Serve with a green salad.

Photo from libertygrace0, Flickr