I had been quite engrossed in my daily work at the office these days. This is the season in academia where we are ending the year with events, finals, and commencement. Where I work is no exception. My day job consists of juggling many balls in the air, and being cognizant of avoiding any possible slips or faux-pas. I’d have to say that I’m quite fortunate to work in an office where we are all workhorses.
But, allow me a moment of escape and reflection.
Aside from the office, I am also running my little ballerina around in all of her activities. And, after yesterday’s craziness, I woke up this morning ready to make breakfast, but realized soon enough that I have failed in stopping at the grocery store to pick up a few provisions.
When I am hit with moments like this is when I become all the creative Goddess in the kitchen. I looked at what I had: leftover Kalbi and kimchee from Jung’s Restaurant and a carton of eggs. So, there I was in the kitchen heating up the kalbi and as it sizzled in the pan, I cracked some eggs on top of it. As the eggs cooked away, I went ahead and got the plates ready–carefully placing the kimchee on the side. When the kalbi and eggs concoction took their bows, I placed them on the plate as I thanked the second I had yesterday to stop by Marlo’s Bakery where I picked up two chocolat du pains. I plopped one each for Chloe and I. I breathed a sigh of relief that my husband was at guard duty weekend and I didn’t have to consider his pickiness for breakfast.
I looked at my creation–quite proud actually–and out of nowhere, I thought about my paternal grandfather, Daddy Ben. I was told when I was much younger that I had nicknamed my grandfather Daddy Ben, and it stuck with him. I became a little teary eyed because looking at the plate, I thought of his reaction. I was reminded what I had long forgotten–how much a grandfather can truly unconditionally love his granddaughter. Then, I thought about it a bit more on how such unconditional love can be easily forgotten, but yet when one feels it again–it overwhelming strength penetrates through all these years. How does that happen? Well, funny thing how a plate of food can do that.
The memory I thought of was when Daddy Ben used to tell me how Chinese food–fast food version–is basura–which means “garbage.” My grandfather was a chef, and he may have been a sous chef in a restaurant at one point. I once saw a photo of him with all these other chefs, and they wore these tall white hats that chefs may have worn back in the day known as toques. I looked at the plate I created, and I realized at that moment that it was my grandfather who taught me about the appreciation of food.
I pictured his face looking at the plate, then looking at me, and saying “Ok, not basura. Ok, ok. Where’s the fruit?” Then, in the middle of the kitchen–I started to really tear up and cry–because to me the plate looked like basura, but the fact that my Daddy Ben would have been ok with it anyway occurred to me the beauty of how a grandpa can love his granddaughter.
I was about ten year’s old when he taught me how to create a fruit basket out of a watermelon. He showed me how to use a pairing knife slicing the shapes into the watermelon. I watched him carefully make those triangular shapes on the watermelon rind as he delicately took the melon baller and scraped the flesh out of the fruit. I’d watch him look at me with his crystal blue eyes as I attempted to copy him, and he would correct me ever so patiently. This was our time together. We’d be in the kitchen as he showed me how he created beautiful things to eat from simple ingredients. He was the balance to my paternal grandmother, Mamang Goys, who hauled my little rascal ass to church–I never wanted to go, but she’d tell me that there’d be snacks. So, you didn’t have to tell me twice.
To Daddy Ben, I felt as if I could never do no wrong. He’d say, “Bibingka, you are always getting into trouble. Come on, let’s cook something in the kitchen. Bibingka, his nickname for me, is a Filipino dessert made from rice cake and often eaten after Sunday church. He called me that because as he said “your face is shaped like a round Bibingka!” and he’d giggle at me while I pouted and wondered why my face would remind anyone of a dessert. And, then he’d teach me how to cook hotdogs in butter to go with the eggs for breakfast–it was one of his versions of being creative.
I sincerely believe that we are lucky creatures to be able to go through life, and be reminded sometimes of moments that we have long forgotten. I haven’t thought about my grandfather in a long while. He passed away several years ago, and he didn’t really get to watch me grow into who I am today. He met my husband, and giggled at me because as he said “you always fall for the most handsomest one, huh?” and I took that as his approval of my choice.
He was long gone when I gave birth to my two other children, and he never had the chance to congratulate me on all those accomplishments. But, deep within me, I believe that he knew that I would be alright.
He even knew that I would be ok even when I got too busy to grocery shop and had to be creative making breakfast on a Sunday morning.
I know this to be true because for the first time in a long time, I felt his approval and love as I stared down at that plate.
A grandfather’s love is always there–even if we forget it every now and then.
I’d like to think he would have approved my acquired kitchen skills today.
What Daddy Ben would consider Not Basura.