Filling the Void with Food...and Failing


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Filling the Void with Food...and Failing

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Food is the centerpiece of all of our family gatherings, even the informal ones. Before quarantine, my in-laws would drop by regularly, and always with enough food for an army. In the almost twenty years I have known my mother in law, I have never seen her without being given food - even if it’s a fresh bao she pulls out of her purse (true story - this happened at my kids’ student of first trimester awards last year (pre-Covid). I saw her for a total of 20 minutes, just enough time to watch my son and daughter get their awards and dash back to work, and that saint of a woman gave me three warm bao she had picked up on the way from a local bakery. “Pretty good” she said, which is her seal of approval.) It is hard to admit as I type this that I have not physically seen my in-laws beyond waving through the front window when they drop off homemade jook (rice porridge) since March. We Facetime with them and text, but it is not the same. That is a long time to be away from people that have a house less than five miles from ours. My in-laws are over 70 and a huge part of our lives, to lose this year with them hurts in ways I can’t describe. And culturally, food is their “I love you” - they don’t say the words, they show it through sharing food. And we haven’t had a meal together in almost a year. My husband still cooks Chinese dishes. On Monday, we had 蔥 油 餅 (green onion pancake), dumplings, Hong Kong waffle, shrimp with peas and lumpia (yes, I know, that’s really Filipino, but it’s sort of a staple in our family), and it was delicious. But there is this odd shadow that sort of hangs over our meal, knowing how much his parents would have loved to share it with us. And yes, we Facetimed them so the kids could show them how well the waffle turned and my mother-in-law said she couldn’t wait to come over and try it. The feeling is very, very mutual.

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This item was submitted on January 22, 2021 by Kathryn Jue using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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