Connected, by our favorite food item, translated…
After the stroke he’d had, after long-term in recovery, my father started, regaining his lost strengths back again. But, his damaged brain was like the cracked eggshells, can no longer be repaired.
Thankfully, he’d still, remembered us, and had recited the name of everybody in the house over and over again, and at the end, he’d playfully added, everybody’s fine…
In order to make a perfect bowl of steamed egg, it takes more, than beating the egg, and adding some water to the egg mixtures, you’d still needed, to filter the egg out, in case there were air bubbles in the process of beating the egg, causing there to be holes as the steamed egg was cooked. But, if you’d needed to get every single dish you make proper cookware, then, there wouldn’t be enough space in your kitchens, and you wouldn’t be using the items you’d bought but a handful of times per month, and so, as we’d made the steamed eggs, we’d, done away with the filtering process.
But, I’d still loved the smooth and soft steamed eggs, especially the kind that’s served with the Japanese meal boxes, inside a tea cup, scooping it up with the small spoon that’s provided, there were mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, clams, with a colorful tempura as décor on top. This sort of a steamed egg has the stock of fish with every single bite, and, the foods would, slid down into the throats, making you want to keep on having more, and, in a very short time, you’d, finished up the entire cup of it, then, you’d started, on the rest of the delicacies on the plates. I can only recall how my mother, my older sister, and I would head out to have these special meals. A meal like this wouldn’t be costly, but, it’d cost over a hundred dollars more than the regular boxed meals, my father who’s known to save up every last penny wouldn’t eat it with us, but, he’d always, taken us out to have these Japanese meals, and, if we brought him along with us, then, we’d, needed to, put up with his soured face through the entire meal, like how we’re, eating our last suppers, or, we’d watched him, frowning, as he’d, selected the cheapest items on the menus, and it’d, made us all ashamed, and lost our appetites.
In order to fulfill my own desires of having steamed eggs, since the elementary school years, I’d started, making it for me. The steamed eggs I’d made, had so many pores that it’d resembled the rocks being eroded by the oceans waves.
Back then, the supermarkets weren’t huge on foreign foods, and, there weren’t many international people who are working here like today, Thai, Vietnamese, as well as American style foods, we’d needed to go to certain restaurants to have it. And, the sorts of condiments we have at home, is the black soy sauces, or the cooking oils, the salts we’d gotten, at the farmer’s markets with the food vouchers. Even those eggbeater, it’d become, this new “toy” that surfaced into our home later on, but was, soon enough discarded, because it took too long to clean it after use.
Using a pair of chopsticks, beat the eggs, add some water, beat it a couple of times more. The chopsticks making the clinking noises, as we’d, sped up the beating of the eggs, listening to that, we know, something is going on, it’d made us, proud, and, for the final touch, a pinch of salt for seasoning.
Because I’m the only one who’d wanted this dish, so, I can only use the produces I can get, the chicken and the mushrooms, I couldn’t get, the fish balls, I have NO clue where I can buy from. The proportions of the egg, water, and salt, I go by feel, like the last time I’d made it, my family said it was, too salty, then this time, I’d, add a little less of salt, if the last time, they’d told me it wasn’t, savory enough, then I’d added a little extra salt this time. Even the water used to steam the eggs up inside the electric rice cooker, I’d gone by my feel, thus, I’d always either added too much on the inside of the cooker, not enough, the eggs I’d steamed were usually always, scarred and holed, like the uneven roads, the colors didn’t spread evenly enough, and, there was, that white in the light yellow too, and, there was, that layer of bluish gray, like a bruise, it’d tasted, hard, and awful. Although, I could never get it just right, my mother had, allowed me to try it again and again, and again, it’d saved her the energies, to come up with another dish, and besides, someone always finishes it at the end of the meals.
In my middle school years, I’d, stopped, going into the kitchens, and, even for my suppers, I’d needed to study late at the schools, so, I’d, bought the packed meals at school. Until I’d gone away for college, and returned home only on the weekends and holidays, and I’d just, needed to, get served my meals, and every now and then, I’d, insisted on going out with friends to dine too. I’d started, cooking less and less on my own.
the kind that’s served in a Japanese restaurant…photo from online…
I’d gotten used to the heavy flavors from eating in the restaurants, and felt, that the foods cooked at home were, tasteless, and I’d, just, carelessly taken a few bites, then, put it down, I’d never considered, from my mother’s angles, how much she’d, put in, to make these meals. My mother allowed us to be, she’d stopped cooking the foods we didn’t like, and in the end, she’d made the foods that I liked, and, bought the items ready-made, because I’d returned home, once every long while. The Japanese shop we’d gone to when we were still younger had, closed for business, plus, we can now, get the tasty steamed eggs from the 24/7 marts. And, that sense of cherishing became like the egg mixture, with too much water added, too diluted, to be cooked into stable form, and, that imagination I’d had toward growing up also, became like the air bubbles at the surface of the beaten egg mixtures, stiffened, as it’d gotten, cooked by reality, became porous.
Until two years ago, my father had a stroke suddenly. That was during the New Year’s, and that New Year’s Eve became, the last time we’d spent together, JUST the two of us.
From the moment my father was rushed into the E.R., he’d fallen into a coma, and, I’d tossed and turned, on that temporary bed, put together with two plastic chairs, a way too small blanket that couldn’t cover up my toes which were growing cold, and my shoulders either, I’d slept uneasily throughout the nights. Each and every time I’d awakened, I’d watched my father, deep in his sleep, I’d felt, comforted, glad, that he was finally, able to sleep quite well. And, my father would always start laboring at the crack of dawn, if there’s no household chores, he’d gone for his long morning walks, and, in the noon hours, he’d used his arms as a pillow, and stayed by the side of the bed, wouldn’t allow himself to sleep too long. At night, if there’s something we’d needed, we’d given him a holler and he’d, wake right away, with no looks of fatigue, like that soldier ready for duty, flipping over, waking up, to fight the battles of a war. But, his enemies, are the hardships of life.
the less extravaagant kind we make at home, photo from online still…
That day, he’d slept for a very long time, sometimes, I’d felt that sudden scare from my imagined feelings of safety, gone up to his face, made sure he was still breathing, then, curled back into my plastic chair, kept waiting again. Over a little more than ten hours, my father finally woke up. I’d recalled that he hadn’t eaten for a long time, after I’d gotten the okay from the doctor, I’d grabbed my purse, rushed to the food court in the basement of the hospital, I’d, walked around the shops, kept worrying that my father may be weakened from not having enough food for a long time, and worked hard, to think of what kinds of foods are soft and easy to chew, as well as, nutritious too.
At which time, I saw that steamed egg at the cafeteria. Opened up the steam basket, the steams came to me, suddenly, I was like that Japanese fairytale character, arrived to the shores that I’m on, without much time I can waste.
I’d taken the steamed egg back to the room, propped my father up on his bed, with a small spoon, fed him, bite by bite, watched him, like my deceased maternal grandmother had, grinded the steamed eggs down, then, swallowing the bites, and, he’d become, in a daze, after he finished just half of the servings, he’d told me he was full, and, I’d tried, to get him, to take a few more bites.
That was, another father. Like the man whom I’d watched sleeping, but, he was, no longer the exact same man. In his dreams, his troubling thoughts were, with the egg mixtures added in, originally very thick, and it’d now, become, diluted, with that lighter yellow, like it was, just formed.
I’d put down the steamed egg, pulled a tissue, to wipe his lips off, carefully asked him who I am. He’d called the first two characters of my name, and, he could only, vaguely recall the vowels from my last, and, confused, spoken aloud a couple of words that sounded like it, and, I’d felt bad, having to keep on guessing it, I’d just, smiled toward him, then, helped him lower himself onto his pillow, to continue finishing his sleep.
After that stroke, after the long and arduous recovery, my father slowly, regained his physical strengths. But, his damaged brain became like the broken eggshells, can no longer be repaired. Thankfully, he’d remembered us all, would recite our names several times a day, and at the end, he’d always added, “everybody is fine” playfully.
After this long, I’d started making the steamed eggs again. Still using my chopsticks, making the loud noises, with my father hooraying me on, then, we’d both laughed, that I was, just, showing off, that it wouldn’t affect the taste one bit. Then, I’d added, some stock, or the fish soy sauce to the mixtures, and the rest of the sides depended on what I have, sometimes, it was the diced up chicken pieces I just bought home, and, I’d prepared some mushrooms too. With the egg and the other food items mixed in proportionally, I’d placed it into the rice cooker, added half a cup of water on the outside, and, not long thereafter, the steam rose from the electric rice cooker, and although I still can’t make my steamed eggs silky smooth, but it’d tasted delicious just the same. Because it had the holes, looked fluffy, some of the times got condensed into it, one attached close to the next.
We’d used our rice bowls to eat, without that atmosphere from the Japanese food shops, but, it’d tasted, about the same.
So, this, is the foods you shared growing up, and it’d become, this connective memory that you and your families have together. This still showed, how we often connect with the foods we enjoy, making it for the ones we cared for and loved, because that, was how love was shown to us when we were growing up too.