“I’ll miss my French mom,” my daughter texted me. She was 21 and more than 3,000 miles away.

During five months studying literature at the Sorbonne on a scholarship, Amy was hosted by a generous Parisian family whose three sons were away at college. Living on different continents made me miss her more than I’d anticipated. I worried about late-night Metro rides alone, weekend explorations on budget airlines, and terrorism in a post-Charlie Hebdo world.

In Paris another mother was (or wasn’t) aware of her comings and goings.

I was surprised to feel competitive with Madame, a much younger, stylish, lively woman who whipped up marquise au chocolat for Amy’s 21st birthday; I had one Toll House recipe in my repertoire. She made lait de poule, a spiked eggnog reportedly used as a cure for Napoleon, when Amy was suffering from Gallic germs. Facebook photos of Amy hugging her French Mom made me mourn our distance apart. I was eager to reunite. Spotty Skype service made our communication sparse and unnatural.

Madame called Amy “the daughter I never had.” Amy was the daughter I almost didn’t have. I postponed parenthood because I was afraid I’d repeat the tumultuous relationship I had with my mother. Her poverty-stricken Russian mother placed her in an orphanage when she was a toddler, and she remained there until she was a teenager. Her fury at being abandoned lasted a lifetime. She was unpredictably explosive, slapping my face when I misbehaved and then offering tearful apologies, saying, “No one ever taught me how to be a mother.”

My husband finally persuaded me to consider getting pregnant before it was too late. I had a miscarriage when I was 39. Two years later a skilled doctor guided my second pregnancy into a healthy baby. Even more miraculous: I was able to forge a close bond with my daughter that I’d never shared with my mother. I was careful to set sensible limits and rules but also allowed her to make decisions and fostered ways we could enjoy each other’s company. Before she left to study abroad, she confessed: “I don’t think I’ll ever rebel. You didn’t give me anything to rebel against.

Amy invited me to spend her last 10 days in Europe with her. I was thrilled that my “emerging adult” daughter wanted to travel with me. When I saw her crossing a cobblestone street, Amy looked familiar yet different, the way a child goes to sleep at night and wakes up looking slightly changed. Her long brown hair was thick and untamed, desperately needing a trim. She had a more confident stride, leading me around her adopted city with a bouncy joie de vivre. She ordered meals in perfect French and walked so briskly I could barely keep up.

She pointed out that I didn’t realize how loudly I spoke, cautioning me, “Don’t sound so American.” She tried to teach me to use a navigation system on my iPhone. I was a tourist in her land. Even worse, I was an over-the-hill mom too lame to use Google Maps.

On our flight to Florence for the last leg of our trip, Amy tearfully recalled how wonderful her host mother had been: teaching her to cook, correcting her French for impeccable grammar, even guiding her in proper etiquette that had been overlooked in her U.S. upbringing. Ignoring my jealousy, I signed us up for a cooking class in a Tuscan farmhouse. I wanted to learn to cook like an Italian grandmother, but what I really needed was a recipe for reminding Amy that her American mom was Top Chef.

Giovanni, a Renaissance man in a black shirt and jeans, transported 10 of us to a farmhouse villa. He changed into chef’s whites and we took turns beating egg whites with a whisk until a meringue formed.

Amy was quiet and hard to read. When Giovanni asked for volunteers to prep, she hung back. I wanted to give her a push, the way I once prodded her to take risks on the jungle gym. Surely she regretted spending the day with me when it was more fun to clink €3 glasses of wine with friends in Latin Quarter bars. I was careful not to intrude on Amy’s space — even though I yearned to make up for five months of lost hugs. It required enormous self-control to resist brushing strands of hair from her eyes.

We made tiramisu. Vanilla biscuits soaked in milk, layered into the custard in a white goblet, decorated with sugar-dusted strawberries. Giovanni encouraged us to taste the berries. For the first time that day Amy smiled, a hesitant grin broadening into a satiated explosion, the way she used to look when she licked the beaters after we made whipped cream together.

Giovanni emphasized keeping a pot of vegetable stock simmering on the stove, perfect for thinning a pasta sauce. “Never call pasta ‘noodles,’ ” he instructed.

We kneaded our dough, wrapped it in plastic, let it rest, then began to roll. An accomplished baker, Amy grew embarrassed when her dough began to tear. Her crestfallen expression reminded me of tears shed when her sand castles collapsed.

“I need help,” Amy admitted.

What she didn’t suspect was that I still needed to be needed.

I tried to patch it. Amy leaned against me, as if physically requiring support. Side by side, we sculpted our ravioli creations, giggling at our abstract versions.

Famished by 3 p.m., we feasted on our labors. A pair of newlywed classmates asked us to take their photo outside, framed by verdant green hills and cypress trees.

“Smile,” Amy said, suddenly snapping me. She positioned me next to her for our first Italian mother-daughter selfie.

“Say parmigiana!” I blurted. “Not so loud,” I reprimanded myself. Amy clicked an Instagrammable worthy shot, captioned: MOM AND ME, DRUNK ON PASTA.

She wound her arm around my waist and extended her camera. “One more for the road!”

“Don’t shout like an American,” I said, laughing.

“Sorry.” She was unable to keep a straight face.

She fell asleep with her head on my shoulder on the ride back.

We returned to the United States with a recipe book and a more relaxed closeness. This wasn’t the first time my daughter would feel like a stranger until we got to know each other again, and would not be the last.

The next morning I made jam because Amy had reveled in Madame’s selection of four flavors of confiture in her Paris fridge. I overcooked mine, but Amy politely pretended she liked my gelatinous goo.

“You don’t have to make jam,” she reassured me. “I like it better when you’re my American mom.”

Just what I’d been waiting to hear: validation that her French mom was merely renting Amy. But even though Madame would remain a lifelong memory and influence in my daughter’s life, I hadn’t been replaced, and never would. There would be other mother figures in Amy’s life: confidantes, mentors, and authority figures. I had to make room for all of them. And I had to trust that I would always reconnect with Amy, in new, and often deeper, ways.

I suggested replicating Giovanni’s recipes in our small city kitchen.

Miam miam,” Amy said, interpreting, “That means ‘yum yum.’ ”

We were maestros in the kitchen, donning Italian aprons. We toasted to many more shared meals.

Bon appétit,” Amy said.

Miam, miam,” I echoed. Translation: I loved having her back in my kitchen, with me.

Candy Schulman is a writer whose essays have appeared in many publications. Follow her on twitter @candyschulman.

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