Feb 12, 2013

Loving Mama

The Moon Represents my Heart, sung by the late Teresa Teng in Chinese

This is one of my mama's favourite old chinese romantic songs. She has many..but this is always her favourite. I grew up knowing it. When I wedded Benny, I told him about it too. When my girls were born, they grew up listening to it in the background when Mama takes care of them in her house.

Its been a while since I last wrote. My usual ramblings is always about work, and more work. Its never easier now, even with Benny quitting his job and helping me full time at our shop. My days are filled with only work at the shop, designing and scheduling baking classes for the studio. Finding new products to sell, etc. 

But my post today is not to talk about work..but to talk about loving mama. For the past few years(sorry, I actually lost count!), I have been hosting Chinese New Year lunches at home..inviting only my parents, my sister, and her husband, my niece..and also Benny's friend and his wife. 

After all, every year I do the same, why talk about it? I want to talk about this because my mom told us over lunch yesterday, that she is 80 years old. And she thought that God wanted her home some 6 years ago after her major surgery to remove cancer cells in her pancreas. Well, apparently not..!  But also the fact that I slaved the day before or should I say, the wee hours into the night, cooking and cooking and prepping everything to make it perfect for lunch with mama. Why?

Because everytime I cook for her, I am reminded as a child, how I loved Chinese New Year and the reunion dinner I have with her. Where she slaved into the wee hours right up to dinner time. To cook up a feast for us. And she knows who likes to eat what, she does it so perfectly. In the early years, almost every family comes from humble beginnings, many are poor. Having a father who works day and night just to put food on the table, a shelter over our heads while a mother sews and mends every torn clothing, bedding and saves every coin so as to keep her family together. So when it comes to Reunion Dinner on Chinese New Year, every dish is a luxury..like eating gold and diamonds. Even though its just chicken and soup that is only filled with cabbages, leeks and fish balls. Some stir fry vegetables on the side, possibly some hard boiled eggs too. If the year has been good, mama would get some fresh sea prawns, steamed and lightly doused it with Chinese wine. But having a steamed fish is a must too.

Such simple fare, these days we eat such dishes on a daily basis. But I remembered with great fondness, how much I adored and loved these simple dishes mama used to cook for us.

And that is why these days, the young people do not favour Chinese New Year, nor the food on the table. Some don't even show up for dinner or come on time.

With many of us now earning a good salary, having chicken is nothing special. But yet every year, mama would cook the same dishes..and serve us her very best. The fattest chicken, the slurpy-drool-worthy soup that is all just fish balls and cabbages.

After her surgery, mama became weak and many times she would throw tantrums and every Chinese New year, I saw a side of her which no one saw..she was sad. That she couldn't cook for us again. It was there and then, I decided and I swore to God that I would carry that burden for her. 

And so now, every year since then, I would slave into the night, cooking superior stock, get the biggest slab of pork and cook it for her. Because she loves pork. And she still has that adventourous streak in her to try all the new dishes..so each year, I created a new pork dish for her. 

And I instilled that into my girls..that they must have respect for mama..

This year, our Chinese New Year lunch at home, even Benny took out his laptop to run a couple of old Chinese Songs like the one above and show her about how others sung it. 

here's mama having a king prawn sauted for her by our eldest daughter, Natasha..

Why is it important for me to continue to learn to cook? Or to try out new ways to cook? If mama did it for us, why shouldn't I do it for her? And I shall continue to cook for her, not just Chinese New Year, but also Christmas and all the other festivals or birthdays we are to have with her.

And it is also through this simple lunch, our values and culture are once again renewed. We were raised by mama to always have respect for our elders and we cannot sit at the table or dig into the food until mama says so. And everyone waited for mama's instruction to say "ok, let's eat now..". And we will all take turns to cook for her, scooping soup on a bowl for her, serving her as if she was the Empress Dowager from the Imperial Court.

Here is the Roast Pork I did for mama this year. The sauce is home made. Using Mandarin Orange to cook into a marmalade(jam) and later used to marinate the pork for 48 hours..and slow baked in the oven for 4 hours..

She had many slices of this..and took a couple more home so she could eat it again the next day. To many more years ahead, Mama, you are loved..and thank you for teaching me the right way to go..to love and to respect my elders..