Lao Dinner with Love

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Friday, August 8, 2014:  After a trip to Laos, I’m always fighting jet lag and the time difference.  I’ve been getting better at not napping during the day but still find myself wide awake at night.  After a few days of insomnia I finally decided to take a sleep pill to aid with my restless nights.  I confess I kinda forgot that I had friends visiting the next day at noon, and I was cooking them lunch.  For the life of me I slept so good and didn’t get up till 9:30 am, and how my body wanted to still go back to sleep.  I sprung out of bed and didn’t even take my morning shower to run to 99 Ranch Market to get my Asian groceries to cook for lunch.

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I had no idea what I was going to cook so like an automatic robot I just starting throwing things in my cart that were my usual meat and produce essentials.  At about 10:30 I fumbled to prep and cook at the same time.  Generally, I love taking my sweet time to prepare all the slicing of vegetables, herbs and to make the marinade, because the whole process is therapeutic and relaxing for me.  This wasn’t one of those days as I frantically tried to get everything done by noon.  Pressed for time, I found myself mentally cooking a menu of food items that took less time to prepare and cook and were my comfortable dishes to quickly cook.  My friend went to culinary school so cooking for her is very intimidating!  In addition to worrying about the food tasting good, I had concerns about presenting it just as good as it should taste.  And her husband is a marine who’s been serving our country the last 20 years and still counting, so it was really important to have a wonderful lunch for this beautiful family.  Later that night, even my husband Tui was bummed he didn’t know of their visit he claims, cause he wanted to make a burger dinner for them.  Husbands are funny this way.  They never remember anything you tell them or is it possible I did forget to tell him?

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To me, there’s no greater joy than to have good friends visit and to be able to show them my love and appreciation at their visit than with a home cooked meal.  My Mae was so gracious and giving of her time and talent in the kitchen whenever we had visitors, and those are the memories I have of how I should also receive my visitors.  I hope my own children will carry on this tradition when they have their own home and family for it truly is such a joyous blessing for everyone involved.  I try to engage them as much as I can so they can see and feel it themselves the wonderful feelings of cooking for others.  Lela, my 14 year old helps me with the prep and stirring the pots like what I used to do for my Mae while my 7 year old Champa sets the table and gets ice and water.  My 17 year old son takes out the compost and garbage like what my brothers had to do. Some things just never change in our family.  We didn’t compost back then so a little has changed.  LoL!

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I somehow managed to get all the dishes done in time.  My older sister came  by to cook some of her own dishes, but I told her it wasn’t needed since we have quite a spread already.  So it was nice to have her help me with the finishing touches.  Besides, I admit I prefer cooking alone and so does my sister.  I like to go at my own pace and clean up as I cook so by the time food is served the pots and pans are all already cleaned.  Another confession about me is I have a slight OCD in the kitchen when it comes to the floor and counters.  Psychologically I can’t really function adequately if my floor and counter aren’t clean and clear of debris.  I find myself wiping down counters and sweeping the floor several times too many, and I’ll also use up almost an entire row of paper towel constantly washing my hands and wiping the sink and counters.  It’s no wonder I can take all day long to cook.  LoL!   The biggest compliment that the food was good is when people eat a lot!  I remember Mae would literally just sit there with a smile on her face watching us eat, and the more we could eat, the bigger her smile got.  “Kin kin.  Kin lai lai”  Eat.  Eat.  Eat a lot were the few words she’d express in between her encouraging smiles for us to eat more food.  There’s no denying I am my Mae’s daughter.

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I created this blog in hopes of passing down my culture, traditions and teachings, including recipes to my children.  I just wanted to post the food we had for lunch yesterday, but I will post recipes eventually.  When I’m not rushing to make these dishes I can take my time to precisely measure out all the ingredients, cause as you know we don’t use measurements in traditional Lao cooking.  We eyeball everything and just add a pinch of this and a splash of that. And yet our parents had expected us to learn how to cook just like them.  Hehe!  I won’t let you experiment through trial and error like I did.  I’ll give you recipes and instructions on how to prepare food that you’ve enjoyed at home with your parents, cause restaurant food just isn’t the same as home cooked food.

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