By Donna Fong
In my family, Thanksgiving is about food. There are families that love music, love to hike, love to drink, love to gamble, love to joke, love sports or some combination of everything. My family, we love to eat. My Dad is a butcher. My Mom is a great cook. I feel bad for families who are denied this pleasure. I’ve heard of Moms who can’t cook.
Bad cooks don’t really exist in the Fong family. My uncles, aunts and cousins own restaurants. We don’t marry people who aren’t interested in food. Next month, we will hold a family cook-off, complete with expensive contest quality acrylic awards. My brother is organizing it. The last Fong family cook-off was 30 years ago. The VHS tape recorded by my cousin shows a room bustling with excitement and laughter.
Whenever we gather for great events like Thanksgiving, the food represents so many things. It is an expression of our love for each other. It is a reminder of how we have eaten for hundreds of years in a country some of us have never visited. It is a blend of where we currently reside. An example of this blending would be one of my Mom’s best dishes; delicate Pacific Pompano caught in Northern California topped with thin slices of jalapeno, steamed the old Cantonese way and topped with soy, cilantro and slivers of green onion. It is mind-boggling good but you have to work your way around the small bones. And you’ll only find them sold in Chinatown.
As an immigrate family, there are no rules to Thanksgiving. It is hodgepodges of turkey, ham, roast prime rib, brown gravy, sticky rice, shitake mushrooms with bitter greens, Hong Kong style scallion ginger Dungeness crab, pumpkin pie and yams. I took the rare opportunity to pour American brown gravy over the sticky rice. It is a perfect combination.
There is no formality. Usually we eat on paper plates and struggle with plastic knives in order to eat the westernized meats that require cutting. We drink tea in non-biodegradable Styrofoam cups. Moms try to stuff a few bites into small children who are delighted to have so many new playmates.
My family has gotten so large that I don’t know everyone’s names or relationship to me. And much of the time, I can’t keep up with the conversations because my aunts and uncles are talking in the village language. But that is okay. I sit with the English-speaking relatives and marvel how fast children can grow and blossom.
Thanksgiving is about being thankful. For me, it is easier to be thankful when you’re older because you’ve lost enough to know how important the stuff is that is leftover. Parents look at their miracles a little longer because they will eventually leave. Elderly relatives are treated gently because that’s how we want to be treated someday.
In the recap of 2014, we have another 300+ alumni students cooking up some great dishes this year. May your desire to give equal the quality of the food your produce and that you will receive much love in return. We hope that Thanksgiving will be a time for sharing your passion with those that are most important to you. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.