I can’t eat what my mother-in-law cooks

By Quynh Nhu   May 13, 2024 | 03:00 pm PT
My in-laws are wonderful, yet I cannot understand where my mother-in-law picked up her cooking techniques, as her meals are unfortunately not appetizing.

Have been married for six years, I am a mother to two children. Currently my family resides with my in-laws.

Since entering this family, I have endeavored to perform my responsibilities as a daughter-in-law diligently and treat my parents-in-law with respect. They reciprocate this by showering me with love, supporting me both financially and emotionally, and providing excellent care for their grandchildren. I count myself extremely lucky to be part of their family.

However, there is one persistent issue I face: my mother-in-law’s cooking leaves much to be desired, or to state it plainly, it is dreadful. Her crab soup invariably contains bits of crab shells. Her sour clam soup is cluttered with unnecessary vegetables. When she fries fish, she does it without oil, which results in the fish being cooked on the outside but raw inside.

Her boiled vegetables turn out mushy and excessively salty. Similarly, her boiled chicken is also mushy and riddled with scattered bones and skin, and her fried eggs are inconsistently cooked—partly raw and partly done.

You might wonder why I simply don’t cook instead of complaining. Initially, I offered to cook, and both my father-in-law and husband appreciated my cooking. However, my mother-in-law took offense when my culinary skills were praised. She criticized my cooking by arguing that my boiled vegetables were not tender enough, that removing shells from crab soup was extravagant, and that clam soup devoid of vegetables was tasteless and lacked nutritional value.

Additionally, since I usually return from work between 6 and 7 p.m., she prefers not to burden me with the task of cooking for the entire family, which would also require them to wait for my late return. She continues to take on the cooking and household management to support me, as she is retired and home care is her primary pastime.

Previously, when we lived in a separate house close to my in-laws, there were no such issues, and my husband was content. My mother-in-law occasionally prepared dishes and brought them over to our place, though she was unaware whether we actually consumed them or if I had to re-cook them.

This year, as my father-in-law’s health has declined, we were asked to live with my in-laws. I don’t mind the arrangement, and it poses no issue for my young children who eat specially prepared porridge. Nevertheless, I find it challenging to eat the meals my mother-in-law prepares. She is quite sensitive, so direct confrontation is daunting. Even subtle hints from my husband might offend her, leading her to lament that her cooking is the best she can manage at her age and might not appeal to everyone, after which she might refuse to eat or drink in despair.

There have been instances when the meals were so unpalatable that I ate very little and resorted to ordering food later in the evening. Upon discovering this, my mother-in-law lamented our lack of thriftiness, criticized us for being overly picky eaters, and disparaged eating out as unsanitary. Subsequently, she would become distraught and refuse to eat.

Since those incidents, I have avoided ordering late-night snacks, even though I am often hungry. I am reluctant to provide too much feedback to prevent upsetting her, yet I recognize that tolerating this situation indefinitely is unsustainable.

What actions can I take now? How can I communicate with my mother-in-law to help her understand and accept that cooking separately might be a beneficial arrangement for us all?

go to top