The season of summer always feels like a fight against time, a race to accomplish, a bucket list to tick off. I usually succumb to it all but not this year. This year my goal has been to take pleasure in the simple daily privileges I am afforded to grieve, to rejoice at growth and to discover what has always been in front of me. I have been lamenting (to myself) the lack of inspiration I have been feeling when it comes to food. The one thing I most relate to feels like a burden. I have so much respect for all the Vietnamese, Salvadorean, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese and so many more immigrant-owned restaurants who work hard daily (and are forced) to keep their prices low so that I can feed myself without guilt from time to time. I have respect for them for various other reasons but this is a top one. Tip well, folks….
It’s normal to make a big food blogging comeback with just 2 photos of the dish right? If the past few months are anything to go by then this is the *PERFECT* way to make a comeback. Something went wrong with the rest of the moong bean hummus photos I made so this is what I have. It’s life’s way of saying “I own you”. That’s cool, life. It’s been a while. I almost forgot how it felt like to be humbled….
I’ve been contemplating not doing any Mother’s Day interview with my mother this year because after having lost my dad, I realise exactly how painful it can be to be the one with NO DAD. I’m sure it feels the same to be the one with no mother. But then I thought about it for more than a second and realised another important thing: Even though I don’t have a dad now, I would still want to get to know my dad better. A few weeks after he died, I read the one interview he did for me and it brought me joy when the rest of the world was coloured in grey. For me it isn’t about grand gestures or phone calls or any of that token stuff. For me it’s just the gift of time to get to know my parents as people. A lot of what shapes us as humans are how we push through major life changes and sure enough, having kids was a pretty big one for my parents. …
I took apart a can of whole peeled tomatoes in its juices today. I say “took apart” but really I took a can opener to it and poured the contents into a bowl. A few minutes earlier, that same bowl housed biscuit dough, a dough that would turn into the biscuits and gravy I promised Matt this weekend. “Biscuits” are different here. They are dunkable in tea (what isn’t?!) but they aren’t equal to cookies. I’ve partly made my peace with this language. Before that dough, yesterday, I made pizza dough in that same bowl. With Wednesday and Thursday off work, I had a few plans to use up pantry items before my upcoming trip in December. There was nothing in particular but what I did know is that I would start a few ingredients to allow us to cook more easily through the week. The tomatoes became a sauce. I chopped a few cloves of garlic and sprinkled in some dried herbs and let it reduce on the stove while I watched the biscuits brown in the oven. Instant inspiration. This is how I cook now. It wasn’t always like this.
What I’m up to these days:
Reading Swing Time. I am a slow reader, which is to say I love to read so much that I feel depressed once the book ends. This is a real feeling….
I started this tradition which is not really a tradition three years ago where I email my mother a few questions and pester her to answer there. I forgot to do it last year but it’s back again this year and that same mother is now a grandmother. If you read the interview in my last post, you will have already understood the story of Jane and Sidney adopting Jacob and being smitten by him in the process. This year’s interview is less about Jackie being our mother and more about being JFC’s beautiful grandma. The torch has been passed and I feel thrilled to say that that collectively, this boy will never want for love as long as he sticks around the D’Souzas and Cardosos.
Because it’s Mother’s Day in America this Sunday and because my sister is a first-time mother this year, I decided to spread my mother’s day interview wings to include not just my mama (interview 1 and 2 here) but Jane too! LUCKY YOU JANE. Pardon the lack of food (unless you’d like to see a recipe for mashed banana? Or hear about baby J drinking 40 ml of water for the first time last week? No?). I have a feeling that you’ll enjoy reading this more than any recipe I have written so far.
Right before I could share photos from my birthday trip to Shelton, WA, I got new that my uncle had passed away in Goa. As sad as it was, I felt silly writing about how wonderful a time I had walking around Matt’s second cousin’s bathtub garden in front of their home. She done a great job with it. It was the peak of spring and everything looked so new, so full of promise. I liked that.
We got similar sad news from Matt’s side of the family and considering the circumstances, it has been even more painful. I had one of my most life-affirming moments with his Aunt Agnes in the most ordinary of times. I don’t know how to describe what might seem like the most trivial thing. It wiped my anxiety slate clean and it keeps doing so when I need it the most. I’ll tell that story when the time comes. For now, here is a healing part of our world. I will miss her so.
It was an unspoken thing – after our paternal grandmother passed away – that we would spend that Christmas with Uncle Edgar at the home they lived and he took care of her in. She lived with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy as a result of it. After her surgery she wasn’t treated further owning to the fact that she probably wouldn’t be able to tolerate the side effects at her age. Uncle Edgar never married and so he saw his mother through all of her ailments, falls, bed sores – all the bits and pieces of getting old we talk of like we’ve lived it many times over. She laid on a bed and a long rope hung above her from the ceiling. No, it’s not what you think. It was long enough for her to reach with her hand and pull herself up so she could sit down on her own. I remember that they covered the noose that was made at the end of the rope with cloth and cloth bandages to make it easier on her frail hands. We never saw it but Uncle helped her with everything. He sat her on her bedside commode. He bathed her. He fed her. Maybe he complained but I don’t ever remember it. I wouldn’t want to think back on him as being anything but selfless, strong-willed and independent.
A few days after I celebrated my birthday, Uncle Edgar died. In a strange turn of fate, he went through almost the same things I described above except in a shorter and more sporadic way and with a different type of cancer. After 5 months of being bed-ridden at the very end, he breathed his last at a nursing home. My dad’s famous words, “I thought he was gone”, while speaking about Uncle finally rang true. It was heartbreaking. Uncle fought hard to live a life that was his own. He accepted his fate better than the modern world allows us to and he kept on living his life in the way he knew. There was so many times when we thought it was the end but he always came back fighting. This time we wanted to believe it would be that way again.
One of the heaviest weights any person who moves away from home has to carry is the one that comes with having to say goodbye. It’s especially hard when you’ve crossed continents and you know you can’t be there when you need to in a short and (emotionally) painless time. Since the last time I visited Goa, I lost my great Aunty Pacy, our 18-year-old family dog Gypsy (who was Uncle Edgar’s dog first) and my cat Bidli. When I left Goa again to come back to Washington this March, I knew I would be saying goodbye to my uncle for the last time. On the morning of the day I was to begin the first leg of my journey, I drove the nurse to his house just as I had being doing for a large part of the start of this year. I didn’t *have* to do it. God knows I had a million things on my mind but I wanted my last day at home for a while to feel like I wasn’t going anywhere. I wanted to feel like I wouldn’t be waking up on an airplane that night. I wanted to know I could see my people whenever I wanted. This was maybe why I didn’t say “goodbye” the way I’d intended. How do you do it? “I’ll come back to say bye,” I told my father. I meant I would drive back after taking his nurse home but I really meant I wanted to come back in a year or two and see him there. And say bye once more.
There are many, many vivid memories I have grabbed onto and kept in the back of my mind. Having Uncle Edgar live less than a 10-minute drive from us turned them into more than I can count. Of all his nieces and nephews, it was us that had the luxury of being dropped off for the afternoon and asking him if he could find or make us fishing rods so we could go to the river. It was us that could visit and be guaranteed a bottle of Gold Spot and Thums Up (popped open and cap saved in a bowl that was too high to reach) and a slice of La Vache Qui Rit cheese. When we grew up a little, those drinks turned into Port Wine. My sisters and I played in his garden and fought to water the plants, even though we never offered to do the same at home. I got one of my worst skinned knees I can remember while running back from the gate to the house. I can’t imagine that house being empty. Part of me grew up there. It’s where we always expect to see him – sitting in the balcony, reading the paper, people-watching, scolding the help or shooing away the cat.
We got to spend Christmas with Uncle this December. My dad, mama, Jane, Sidney, Matt and I sat in the balcony as close as you can possibly imagine should you have seen how narrow it is. Uncle had his first whiskey in a year and we had the usual plate full of Christmas sweets on the table in front of us. I thought that the previous time I was in Goa would be the last time I saw him but still I told him I better see him next time. It was cool in the shade and the light breeze felt good. Gayle called to wish everyone after pulling a slave shift at work. The cat was begging for sweets. To be sitting right next to these people doing the usual was a present like no other.