Grandmother Choi was a true-to-life matriarch Her word was law in the household.
Her daughters-in-law kept out of her way, if they could escape her eye. The only
person who could put in a word edgeways was her favorite youngest daughter and I
happened to be the beloved granddaughter. But I made sure that I did not incur
her wrath unknowingly.
As for my grandfather, he tolerated her ways, indulging
her whims and fancies
but he stopped short of letting her have the upper hand when his business
cronies were around. Then you would see my grandmother in a different light: a
demure, obedient, dutiful wife.
Grandmother ruled the kitchen. She could because she was an excellent cook.
She could whip up a feast for a banquet in a jiffy. She remembered all the
recipes passed down to her by her grandmother and mother, both matriarchs before
her. There was no need for her to measure the ingredients. Just a handful, just
a cup, just a pinch and it was all just right.
However, Mother told me that
there was one recipe which no one knew anything about. Whenever she needed to
cook it, everyone was barred from the kitchen. Then she would do everything from
buying the ingredients to preparing to cooking to cleaning to serving. We did
not know what it was called but we gave it our own tag: Grandma's Magic Tonic.
The dish would only be served on special occasions. Grandmother was adamant in
not revealing the recipe to anyone not even to her favorite daughter and
Then, it happened out of the blue. Grandmother had just
cordoned off the kitchen when we heard a loud thud. We Mother and I ran to the
kitchen and saw her sprawled on the floor, grimacing in pain. Her face was
ashen and we could almost feel her pain. the
excruciating pain was all over her alabaster
"Help me up, please. These ageing legs are a minus factor in the
kitchen. Since you two are the only ones at home at this moment, you two are to
be the recipients of my secret recipe."
My jaw dropped. Mother looked at me,
with her eyes about to pop out. We held our breath, unwilling to expel any cries
of glee in case the "old tyrant" changed her mind, a stance often employed by
her devious mind to subject us to immediate obedience.
She measured out all
the ingredients with her antique measuring cup. he gave an indulgent smile. It
was a "new" grandmother: she was never this "entertaining". Indeed, she was all
sugar and spice, serene and tranquil.
Then she spoke softly and sweetly. "Take
a scented bath before you commence cooking. Become serene and give thanks for
the good life. As you prepare the ingredients, concentrate on the ingredients
and think peaceful pure thoughts. Give thanks that those about to consume this
dish will enjoy it and be blessed. Continue in this frame of mind throughout the
preparation, cooking, serving and eating."
I could hardly believe my ears.
Grandmother was advocating peaceful pure vibrations to create the atmosphere for
Grandmother had given us the family secret recipe: to enjoy
doing what we do and to give thanks for a good bountiful life.