When your soon-to-be 97 year old Po-Po tells you that she is retiring from cooking, all you can do is stubbornly fight the inevitable and lose. That’s what happened on my recent trip to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving. And while everyone took to the news with much relief (“It’s about time she stopped slaving away in the kitchen”), I was saddened.
Yes – it’s selfish of me to want my Po-Po to continue whipping up my favorite stuffed chili peppers, fish in black bean sauce, and everything else from her repository of insanely ancient and insanely good recipes. Especially since these days, her legs cramp up from prolonged kitchen activity. Then there’s the absent-mindedness that comes with old age: the fridge is left open, the stove is left on, food is left on the counter to spoil. It was a commonsensical and necessary decision for her to spend less time in front of an open flame – it breaks my heart.
When I think of my grandmother, I can only picture the cleaver-wielding matriarch of our food-obsessed clan in the kitchen, forever creating her works of art. She can’t even serve sliced fruit on a plate without meticulously assembling the pieces into a gorgeous mosaic.
Thanksgiving dinner this year just wasn’t the same. It was a no holds barred culinary showdown, sure, but no one was able to deliver Po-Po quality cooking. I don’t think anyone ever will. But it doesn’t mean we can’t try and instill some of her kitchen principles into our practice. For the love of family, always. Go heavy on the chillies, always.