As a young girl, I would look forward to seeing the look on my Chinese grandmother’s face at meal times. I could eat seven bowls of salted fish fried rice and one whole order of sweet and sour pork (yes, including the last bits of peppers and pineapples) in one sitting. ‘Mama’ would beam at me. That look she gave me made me feel proud because it was the one thing I did that pleased her. My older cousin Snow White was her favourite, with her white complexion, dark thick hair and red lips. Her second favourite was my younger brother because he too was fair and well… he is a boy, the favoured gender for the Chinese. Snow White’s younger sister, Tomboy, and I were at the bottom of Mama’s fave list – probably because we were the darker ones of the brood. Still, I did make Mama proud when I ate a meal for three! And I loved to please her.
Then I went off the college. I gained my freshman 30, turned vegetarian and while trying to lose weight, I started dreading meal times with Mama. I dreaded sitting next to her the most because that meant having to eat everything she put on my plate, non-vegetarian items included. She would pile my plate high with food. And when dessert came and I declined, she would say: “Why? It’s good for you!” My college I-know-it-all attitude would speak up “THAT is good for me? Are you kidding? I don’t think so! I need to lose weight! Besides, I don’t eat meat or fish.” Mama wouldn’t beam at me anymore. Her looks across the table (I’d choose to sit far away) would be a contorted grimace my way. Sigh. I was definitely at the bottom of her list now.
Recently, my husband, son and I visited my grandmother. She is quieter and more timid these days, but food still is the most important part of her day. Food brings her closer to others. It is during mealtimes that she takes pleasure in sharing experiences and thoughts and feelings with friends and family. It also pleases her to watch others enjoy food. During our first dinner together while visiting Mama, my son was sound asleep. Mama fretted that he wouldn’t have enough food to eat afterward. Then, just as we were about to leave the restaurant, my 3 year old son woke up and devoured the leftover pineapple slices on the table and quickly asked “More please!” From the corner of my eye, I saw Mama’s body suddenly come alive. I glanced at her and saw her face transform into that familiar beam. Was it to me? Or was that beam for my son? I’m not sure. I watched as Mama’s smile seemed to grow wider every second as she watched my son eat four more orders of pineapple slices. She was obviously so proud of watching her great grandson enjoy his food.
Mama and I may have very different views on nutrition. Although she has accepted that I am a raw foodie, I don’t think she would ever agree with my diet choice. She loves canned Vienna Sausage, candy and fried pork rinds too much. But when I see my grandmother’s eyes sparkle, her cheeks glowing full of pride and her whole body bursting with energy and delight at watching my son eat pineapple, I realize we are more alike than I thought.
(Hmmm, now I wonder if having a son who loves to eat increases my ranking power with Mama?)
Recently, our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) gave us a pound of peanuts. I don’t like raw peanuts, so I cooked them – just the way Mama used to eat peanuts when I was growing up. She would sometimes sit at the table in the late afternoon, shelling and eating boiled peanuts.
Although boiled peanuts are clearly not raw, they are a local, in-season, unprocessed and unrefined cooked food. Yesterday, my son asked to eat cake for breakfast instead of the usual raw fare (we were at a sugar filled birthday party the night before). He stopped asking for cake as soon as I brought out these boiled peanuts. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer my son to eat this than a piece of processed cake! This recipe is simple, easy and truly addictive. Enjoy!