Thought Catalog

Today I Grew Up

Yup, for the rest of my life I’ll actually be able to pin point the day – Sunday, February 12, 2023 – that I realized I’m a grown up now. A real life adult.

So it wasn’t when I graduated from college. It didn’t happen when I got my first job. I was not an adult when I bought my first apartment. Or when we sold and bought another apartment. I didn’t become an adult when I bought my mom her own apartment. I was definitely just a young woman when I got married. I was not an adult when I bought my first house. Nope, it did not happen when I became a mom. I was also not quite an adult when I had my second child.

So what, you ask, was that magical moment when I thought to myself, “Ok, I’m definitely growing up now”?

It was when my Weee order came in this morning. When I bought my first chili oil.

You see, growing up, my fridge was not really my fridge. It was my parents’ or my grandparents’ fridge. They bought the refrigerator itself of course, and all the groceries and condiments in it. I didn’t have a say or any interest in what went into our fridge at home, because I was a child and the grown ups took care of that.

Once I started living away from my family, when I moved in with Daniel, I finally paid for my own refrigerator, but the groceries were not really quite mine. Yes, we paid for those too, but in my 20s I didn’t really know the type of food I wanted to eat. I had cravings based on my emotions, and I ate things that were convenient. Our condiments were super basic- ketchup and oyster sauce.

When Olivia joined our family, we started paying more attention to planning our meals, but we would still eat out a lot. We tried meal kits like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, and those were great for some time, but the meals still didn’t feel like they were my own. I was still eating based on convenience.

Then, we had Chloe and life started becoming more planned out out of necessity. With two young kids, you really don’t have time for an empty fridge. You always have to have ingredients that could turn into meals, and you have to have instant noodles in the pantry and frozen items for backup. Luckily, my mom has been able to help us with Chloe since Daniel and I both returned to work, and she brings groceries over every week. For almost a decade, since I moved out of my mom’s house, I was never on a consistent homey Chinese diet, but for the last month we have been really good about having meat and veggie dishes for dinner. I love that home cooked meals have become our default meals as opposed to take out. (To be fair to Daniel, he does basically all the cooking in our household and he has cooked a lot prior to the last month, but over the last month he’s consistently made Chinese dishes as opposed to a mix of whatever we were in the mood for at the moment.)

So back to the chili oil. I was never interested in chili oil, but now that I’m a mom of two, I find myself wanting to reconnect with my roots and my tastes often gravitate towards Chinese food, because that’s what I want my children to associate as their homey, comfort, childhood food. Chloe just started solids last week, and Olivia has been doing so well lately with being open to trying new foods. Last weekend I had chili oil with dumplings at my mother in law’s house, and it was such a delicious yet simple combo. For the past week I’ve been craving that flavor again so I ordered chili oil from Weee last night and it arrived this morning.

I had some of the chili oil with dumplings tonight and each bite filled me with some more joy and pure happiness. I finally had the first condiment I chose for myself and bought for myself that wasn’t a default purchase based on what my mom and grandparents had in the past, even though the two are tangentially related. I was finally marrying my past (the craving for homey Chinese tastes) with something I’ve discovered myself in my 30s (the craving for chili oil and dumplings).

And apparently, for me at least, that was what it took for me to feel like a grown up.

In short, as a child, my mom introduced me to dumplings and I learned they were delicious. Thirty years later, I learned how to combine chili oil with dumplings to make them a different kind of delicious. And now I look forward to passing that on and sharing them with my children. Perhaps growing up is really taking the base of what we learned from our parents and making them our own, to be shared and taught to our own children.