Blog surfing yesterday, I came across a touching entry from The Asian
Still smilling at 90!
Grandmother Cookbook. The entry titled a Tribute to Oma, really inspired me to start the project I have been postponing for too long.
I am trying to collect stories and memories about my grandmother, my oma, especially relating to her cooking, food and recipes. So dear cousins, please help me complete this.
So here goes, the first story in this project.
My Grandmother’s Sous Chef
I remember when I was under the care of my Oma. Both of my parent work, so everyday after school I would be sent to my aunt’s house, where my Oma resides. The afternoon usually started with lunch. My Oma, my aunt, my cousins and I would gather together at the dining table, each recollecting events and incidents of the day. Mind you, my stories are usually the most bland, as I was the youngest. My cousins’ would retell who bullied who, who kissed who, the politics of high school, while I stared in amazement listening to their tales.
As the lunch party dissolved, my aunts returned to her gardening and my older cousins continued their gossips, I find myself faced with a dreadful activity, an afternoon siesta. I looked at my older cousins in envy, as nap time is exclusively for the young ones. All attempts failed miserably to avoid it, until one day I came across my Oma on the porch preparing a dish. Finally, a ticket out of Siesta-dom!
Helping my Oma cook became a routine and I was really involved in the preparation process. Despite my denied entry to the kitchen (reason for this requires a separate entry), I was experienced enough as a Sous-Chef to prepare the ingredients of Sarang Burung (birds’ nest), roll the Ronde (red bean dumpling with ginger water), shape and bread the Dutch Kroket (look for the recipe here!), and weave the Ketupat (Indonesian rice cakes). Thinking back, this is a stark contrast to my current reluctance to enter the kitchen.
As a highly skilled helper, I was entrusted with more responsibility come Chinese New Year. With nine children and their immediate family, small is not really the exact way to describe our gathering. Thus my skills and experiences are employed, this time not only for the dish preparations. I was promoted to be part of the actual cooking and be allowed to enter her domain, the kitchen.
The party was a success! The food ravished and the tummies filled. Now it is the time the children have been waiting for, the handing out of Hong Baos or red packages filled with money. My cousins and I lined up, saying our greetings with terrible accents “Gong Xi Fat Cai,” and received our shares. While my Oma gave one to me, she said ‘Don’t forget to give me a kiss me before you go home tonight!’ and I nodded.
As bid my adieu and kissed my Oma goodnight, she gave me another Hong Bao and told me to keep it a secret. I followed my parent into the car, and as the engine revved, I rolled down the window. Called my cousins, who are still gossiping instead of bidding their goodbyes, and flaunted the hong bao given by my Oma, while quickly drawing the identical one from my pocket, the special hong bao just for me.
This gesture prompted my cousins, to quickly reach their pockets and count their red packages. The car drove, and a sigh of relieve was exhaled by my cousins. I closed the window and giggled at the back seat of the car, self-indulgingly thinking that I am my Oma’s favorite grandchild.