Do you remember the first thing you learned how to cook? I have a super hazy and possibly slightly reconstructed memory of my grandpa teaching me how to whisk eggs with chopsticks when I was a little. Scrambled eggs were the first thing I ever learned how to cook. Every single time I make them I remember him telling me that a good whisk is all in the wrist and that if you move it just so, you won't make a huge mess. It makes me smile every single time I whip up these eggs for breakfast. You probably already know how to make scrambled eggs. Who knows?! Maybe you don't. But here is a recipe, and I really just wanted an excuse to tell you about the person who instilled in me my love of food.
I'm the most sentimental person you will ever meet and the holidays make me extra sentimental and sappy. This post might be an epic ramble as I spiral into an emotional tailspin. You've been warned. Around this time of year my homesickness reaches an all time high and I start to tear up at restaurants if I see a big Asian family out eating dinner together. I'm instantly balling if there are grandparents surrounded by little grand-babies. Gah, it gets me. I miss my family all the time. I grew up in a pretty close knit family and I'm the only one not in Ohio. My entire mom's side of the family (parents, brother, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma, errbody) lives in the Cleveland area, with the exception of an aunt who lives in Columbus. Family dim sum, lunches, and dinners were constantly happening. We were always together and moved around in a pack. For the first decade of my life, I grew up seeing everyone almost daily at my family's restaurant. At the time, I definitely did not appreciate it, but now as a somewhat-adult, I'm really thankful to have grown up in a restaurant surrounded by family.
Cooking and eating food that reminds me of them makes me feel connected to them somehow. When I whisk eggs I think of my grandpa. When I chop vegetables I hear my mom telling me to tuck my fingers in so I don't lose a finger. When I have chocolate ice cream I think of my other grandpa and how he kicked my ass at climbing a giant hill (it was really a tall city park) in Hong Kong, and once I finally met up with him at the top he was peacefully enjoying a scoop of chocolate ice cream. Food is so powerful that way. Every recipe comes with a narrative or a memory. My absolute favorite stories are the ones my mom would tell me of her growing up or of my grandpa when he was little. Like the tasty after school snacks her grandma would make her. Or how my grandpa would sell peanuts when he was a little boy to make money and that's why he is so good at math. I could listen to these stories all day!
My Grandpa, or my Goong Goong as I would call him, was pretty awesome. He was an only child supporting his single mom, who created quite a life for himself and a big family of his own. He was a teacher and calligrapher back in Hong Kong, but he decided to move to America for a better life for his family. He and my grandma, his mom, my mom, and her 4 siblings all flew over from Hong Kong and landed in Chicago, where they lived for a year before settling down in Cleveland. Like so many immigrants, he started working in restaurants. While he learned how to cook he also learned all the intricacies of running his own business. Eventually he opened up his own restaurant, and continued to open and operate them until he retired. He worked so hard and was such a great cook! It makes my eyes all teary when I think about how much he accomplished and what a great life he gave my family. Gosh.
He wanted me to study something related to computers when I went to college. I probably should have listened to him, but I wanted to do something more creative. Architecture happened. Now food has my focus, but I think he left such an amazing framework for me to do something with food. My entire life, he was always sharing food with me, whether it was plates of food or recipes. I would sit next to him at dim sum and he would whisper in my ear how the different dumplings were made. I was young and dumb and didn't retain that information, but I remember him telling me! I would giggle and then get distracted by a new dumpling coming to the table. We would share a crispy taro dumpling (our favorite) and I would ramble on about something silly like Pokemon or try to annoy my brother. That's normally how dim sum went.
He passed away 8 years ago around Christmas. I remember being in the hospital room with my entire family, we move around in a pack remember, and as my grandpa passed away I had never experienced sadness like that before. But at the same time I don't think I have ever experienced my family love each other that way. I'll never forget how that felt. Just like how I will never forget my grandpa's giant smile, the way he sang my Chinese name, and the way he taught me how to whisk my eggs and appreciate food. I miss him so much.
In a way I think my grandpa, and the rest of my family, is the reason why I cook, why I write, and why I share. I want to share the food of my family. I want to attempt to recreate the centuries old recipes my grandma makes from memory (it's really hard). But I also want to share my own personal experiences with food and create an archive of sorts for my future grandbabies to read about 50 years from now. Gaaaaaaah! Tailspinning... (compose yourself, you're almost done!) Okay. Anyway, all I wanted to say is that my hope for this blog is to create an archive and celebrate the joy and the stories behind food!
Sorry if this got really sad, but it cheered up a little didn't it?? If you have any stories you'd like to share I would LOVE to hear them! You can post them in the comments below. I hope you have a lovely beginning of December!
Grandpa's Scrambled Eggs
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp olive oil
1. Crack eggs into a small bowl, sprinkle some salt and pepper, and add milk. Give it a quick whisk.
2. Heat a skillet over low heat. Add oil and egg mixture to the pan while it is only slightly warm. Continue to slowly whisk or scrape the eggs as they gradually cook and set up. o
3. Enjoy as is or on some buttered toast with hot sauce and green onions!
wee dumpling with grandpa