In honor of Mother’s Day . . . .
My parents were my alarm clock growing up. While my dad would pull boyish pranks to get me out of bed – grabbing my comforter, for instance, and whisking it out of the room – my mom used more gentle persuasion: bacon. No matter how tired I was, my consciousness swam through layers of sleep and immersed fully piqued whenever my mom decided that bacon was on the menu for breakfast. I would awake to find my mom sitting on my bed, waving a piece of bacon under my nose. She would feed me a small piece. “Qi chuang. [Rise out of bed.] There’s more downstairs.” Getting up was easy when there was bacon on the horizon.
I think I was twelve when I realized that my mom is a Superwoman. She met my father in Taiwan and, after ten years with him, fearlessly agreed to move our family to the United States where she knew no one. She raised my two sisters and me with a firm hand. We may have run wild sometimes, but never outside of the home. Strangers would approach our parents to compliment them on how well-behaved we were. Seemingly tireless, my mom cared for my dad and my sisters, held a job, and always made it home in time to greet us from school. She made our meals from scratch and we learned to appreciate where our food came from. She had her own vegetable garden and taught us how to compost. Through her traditional Chinese cooking and teaching, we developed a wide, diverse, and adventurous palate. By her example, we learned to value the animals that died to sustain us, and avoided being wasteful. We didn’t bat an eye at drinking shrimp and crab “brains,” or eating marrow. My sisters and I can all efficiently take apart a lobster and eat everything that can be eaten.
My mom had the magic ability of never making my sisters and me feel like we were interrupting her when we had a new cut on our knees, gum in our hair, or just wanted to be around her. She still has that magic. She taught us the multiplication tables and how to pick crisp apples and sweet blackberries. She encouraged us to study hard and even gave us extra homework to do. When we were sick, she fed us her wondrous chicken soup. We never doubted that she loved us, or was there for us.
I gain strength from my mom. She exemplifies the ideals she believes in. She is a sharp, organized, intuitive, unflappable woman who can cook, sew, sing, dance, tell stories, fix computers, and find the best bargain on anything. My mom is very practical, and a fast learner. She speaks four languages fluently. She is so perceptive that, when she listens to you, she can hear the things you aren’t saying. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and a sweet sense of propriety: her version of road rage is calling the other driver “buddy.”
My mom doesn’t just believe in the power of the family, she has defined our family. While my dad worked long and demanding hours to support us, my mom was at home making sure we didn’t turn into criminals. If my dad couldn’t be home for family dinner, my mom packed dinner, my sisters and me up, and we’d have dinner with him at work. Throughout my life, she has nourished our family with her food, sound judgment, patience, and love. She is also one of the wisest people I know. When I was little and wasn't sure what to do, I would wonder, what would mommy do? When I’m feeling perplexed or uncertain, I consult her like a Magic 8 Ball. Somehow, she always knows what to say to give me clarity and perspective. She is fair, direct, and honest, and the world is better for having her in it.
Today I’m sharing one of my mom’s recipes, and a family favorite: Taiwanese Pork and Potato Stew. This is a classic Mom recipe because it has just a few ingredients, requires minimal labor, and is very affordable. This dish serves 5-6 people and it cost me $4.23 in groceries. The secret ingredient is love. I hope this dish becomes a family favorite for you, as well.
I love you, Mom. Thank you.
* If the stew isn’t thick enough to your liking, mix cold water and corn starch in a 1:2 ratio (start out with 1 tablespoon of water) in a bowl. While the stew is simmering, pour the corn starch/water into it and stir simultaneously.