My parents met in Taiwan when my father, Tom, was a young zealous missionary who could not speak the local language but knew he had a message to share. “Frank” was his interpreter until my father acquired mastery of the Taiwanese dialect and during their acquaintance, Frank introduced him to his family including his sister, Sadako. Tom was immediately smitten and she quite taken with the handsome Westerner. Their courtship is another story entirely. But as the story regards the food that I grew up eating, Tom brought Sadako to the United States after they were married in order to finish his seminary studies. They lived in Kentucky for a number of years, giving birth and raising 3 children while my father earned his Masters of Divinity. During that time, my mother learned to cook a number of Southern dishes which were entirely foreign to her but she wanted so to please her new American husband.
To this day, I have not tasted anyone’s homemade Fried Chicken that can rival her’s. It’s a simple recipe involving a brown paper sack and it is fried perfection. (Dean Fearing and I once had a very polite disagreement about who made the better chicken and we learned that we use the same method: his grandmother also taught him to use a paper sack and she was from Kentucky!) These days I most often make Fried Chicken for a picnic to be served cold with champagne on a lazy afternoon.
I think that I am adventurous in the kitchen but my mother was a true model of courage. Can you imagine leaving everything you know and love and coming to a foreign country with strange dishes and customs? And then embracing the difference and trying to adapt to a way of life without fulling understanding even the language? This week’s Menu is a tribute to my brave Taiwanese mother.
I love this picture. I don’t remember my mother being silly on many occasions so this image is priceless. I think her expression embodies a cheeky attitude that says “I know what I’m doing.” Love you, Mom!
p.s. I’m the big mouth – shocker!