I have two sets of grandparents just from my mother's side. It is an interesting story that if I invest enough time, it would makes for a great novel. From snippets of story and through conversations, I gathered that my biological grandmother comes from a poor village family and when she was in her teens, she came to her cousin of some distant relation's home to help. This cousin of hers was wealthy and educated and married to a doctor. Of course this was during the time when Burma was still a British colony. They lived in a beautiful grand Victorian home with a garden surrounding the whole property. They seem to have it all except they couldn't have any children. The story goes that my grandmother was arranged to get married at the age of seventeen to a local jail warden. She would then have five children and each child was adopted by her cousin. My grandmother continued to live in her cousin's home and took care of the house and its residents. My mother and her siblings were loved and raised by two sets of parents who were in their own ways were polar opposites. I never really got a chance to get to know my grandfathers but my two grandmothers were important figures in my life. These two women would continue to raise these children and took care of one another long after their husband's deaths and until my Mommy Gyi (my mother's adopted mother) death. What I remember most about Mommy Gyi is her loves for antiques and decorating. Every weekend, I woke up to the sounds of furniture moving. Of course what I remember the most about my other grandmother, Mommy Choe, is her love for cooking. I can't though figure out if she loves cooking because she truly loves food or if her love stems from spending her whole life in the kitchen and that is where she now feels comfortable most. She takes great pride in each dishes. To this day, she wakes up with the sun rise to walk through local farmer market for her ingredients. She plans each meal thoughtfully to make sure the vegetable dish would compliments the main meat dish and the soup would enhance the flavor of the side dishes. Her daughters would beg her to relax and not cook anymore but she ends up sneaking into the kitchen and pushing the cooks out of the kitchen anyway.
I think my grandmother's favorite thing to do is to stand next to you as you take your first bite of the meal. She watches you with such intensity. I can tell you that even before each flavor burst in my mouth, I know every bite of her food would be delicious. Even my father, who is very hard to please, will tell everyone that no one can cook as well as his mother in law.
Sometimes I wonder if half the fun in cooking is actually watching other people enjoy your meals. Every time I fry the chili oil or find some wonderful treasures at a flea market, I feel I am closer to my grandmothers. Of course, whenever I cook for friends and I find myself staring intensely as they take their first bites and feel a rush of such excitement. I think to myself how the blood and the memories of these two women are rooted so stronger in my identity.
Recipe courtesy of www.cookingforkeeps.com