This project is a product of three different events. First, I fell into a bizarre cultural fad along with an alarming number of my fellow 30+ year old males. For whatever reason, I watch far more Food Network than ESPN and care more about stand mixers than new car models. Second, I received a friend's set of family recipes, which included all sorts of great recipes from New England to the South (and even a chinese recipe). The recipes and the accompanying cover letter instantly made me wonder why my own family didn't have anything like that. And finally, I couldn't come up with a good gift for my dad for xmas. This isn't a new circumstance, in fact it happens every year, but this time I remembered what my dad shared at my grandmother's funeral two years ago.
Among many other things that were spoken in remembrance of my popo (grandmother), my father shared that one of his favorite memories was his mother's tomato and cabbage dish. As my family were refugees from China living in Hong Kong, my dad as the youngest, and popo would visit the open air markets after they closed and pick through the vegetables that weren't sold and thrown out. And one of the dishes that came out of those trips, was the tomato and cabbage dish that became my dad's favorite.
It may be a cliche since it is nearly universal, but food-and by extension- cooking, has always been a vehicle for love. My grandmother's first question to me whenever we spoke was, "have you eaten yet?"And her second was always, "What did you eat?" She always wanted to know what my favorite food was, and became very concerned when i stopped eating red meat for a short period. (She thought i would get cold.) And whenever i visited her, no matter what time arrived (and drives often had me arriving after 10pm), she would have a meal prepared for me and would stay up until finished whatever she put in front of me. Picture an elderly chinese woman, in pajamas, without her teeth, sitting down with me and watching to make sure i ate the food and wouldn't go to sleep hungry.
My grandmother never wrote her recipes down, and never made much of an effort to teach anyone what she cooked. If you wanted to learn, you had to pay attention and of course help out.. especially when she refused to get any help. Unfortunately, i rarely paid attention and was all too happy to take my grandmother's word that she didn't need my help as i did what seemed so much more exciting and interesting. Luckily, my dad grew up helping my grandmother, and was far more observant that i was.
So i decided to compile as many recipes as i could over the next few days and share them with you. Now, this is not to imply that all of these recipes are my grandmother's, in fact, many are probably not. Many, if not most, are from my dad, and is probably more his than hers, and some are from my dad's wife who is a great chinese cook in her own right. But, as my dad said, they may not be what my grandmother cooked, but they are definitely still my grandmother's food. Chinese home cooking is just like every other culture's own cooking, they share some common features, but the love of course, is in the details.
So much appreciation goes to my dad and his wife for being patient with me as i try and chronicle recipes and ask annoying questions. Any mistakes are obviously mine, and please feel free to comment or leave changes that you think are needed.