ABOUT EATING PO-PO'S (婆婆)
Ten years ago, the kitchen became my safe place. Cooking gave me the confidence I needed to wade through all of the early adulthood murkiness – and boy, was it murky. Whenever life around me was collapsing like a house of cards, I would retreat to the kitchen and fix up something delicious. Ironically, with a knife or a spatula in my hand, I was able to let go of the uncontrollable anxiety that comes with being young, insecure, and well, young and insecure. The focus would shift to the task in front of me – hand-making pasta, assembling a sushi roll, macerating berries, or mincing garlic. Over the years, food has become a vehicle for wonderful – and sometimes painful – memories and experiences.
Up until I entered college, my grandma aka my Po-Po would spoon feed me all of her homemade delicacies and her insanely profound wisdom. As a rather young, haughty child, I'd dismiss her attempts to connect withe me, as an old person's inane ramblings. How quickly we wise up after a few heartbreaks, disappointments, and losses.
Five years ago in my tiny Manhattan sardine can, I awoke to a deeply soulful smell of ginger, garlic, and chilies. A neighbor was wok-frying something. (I lived in Chinatown. This happened frequently.) My gut and my heart desperately yearned for my Po-Po. Suddenly, the biggest lesson she had always tried to teach me, was realized. It was gratitude. I've felt it strongly ever since.
Though Po-Po passed away in 2015, I keep her spirit alive by chronicling her stories and recipes through writing and food. I host pop-ups around NYC cooking the Sichuan/Taiwanese food from my childhood. And in March 2016, I launched a line of gluten-free, dairy-free sweet and savory breads, inspired by Po-Po's love of interesting flavor combinations and her dedication to healthful living. After all, from Po-Po I learned that above all else, it's a luxury to eat well. So that's what I'm doing.