Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Out here in LA, I am 3,000 miles away from a home-cooked family meal. If there is any inkling of a critic in me, I must have acquired it from my family, who set the bar pretty high when it came to food. My father is a talented gardener and fisherman so we always had fragrant, delicious fresh herbs and fresh caught seafood on our table. Summers we were put to work, knee-deep in water, we dug for those famous quahog clams off the Rhode Island coast, which would be grilled until they popped open. I loved every minute of it.
Food is intertwined with my spiritual life as well. I grew up in house with two kitchens, where once a year we honored the Kitchen God. On the anniversary of my grandparent's deaths my family came together, in the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition, to honor our ancestors with an eye catching and abundant feast laid out in front of the ancestor alter featured in every respectable Vietnamese home. Dropping to our knees in deep prayer we invite our ancestors spirits to enjoy the meal through the fragrant trail of incense.
Afterwards, with more dishes than people present, we dig into the feast. As our family grows through marriage I noticed new dishes appearing from different regions of Vietnam. My cousin's wife is a splendid cook who has incorporated dishes from her native region of Vietnam, such as this green papaya and mint salad with cured beef (similar to bresaola). Everyone contributes in their own special way. My youngest sister, Duckie, sliced the bread in an inventive way. She pressed the baguette on its side and cut in a "V" to form the heart shapes.
My Grandmother & Grandfather