Some Grandmas are really good at making cookies and knitting you blankets. My Grandma is a competitive ballroom dancer, force-feeds me “Women’s Soup” (good for your ovaries), and lets out a content, slightly sinister chuckle after she belches (which is a lot).
This weekend, we celebrated Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which means time with Grandma and her unique style of Grandma cooking.
All dinners at Grandma’s start with some murky soup, filled with mysterious sticks, seeds, roots, and animal extremities. This one had a pork chop, chicken feet, ginseng, some fibrous root, pebbly fungi, and tons of other things that suposedly are good when I “have too much barbecue.” (Somehow she knew about my back-to-back meals at Dinosaur BBQ.) Sometimes she puts figs, dates, cordyceps, and vegetables in her soup, but those are different medicines for different purposes.
Here we have Kai-lan, or Chinese broccoli, with dried pork. Boiled freshly-slaughtered chicken with ginger garlic sauce and roast pork. And okra with minced pork and baby portabellos.
Sea cucumbers with abalone, shiitake mushrooms, dried mussels and ginkgo nuts is a dish easy to dislike. The biggest thing for me is the sea cucumber. I don’t mind their cartilaginous texture. What weirds me out the most is knowing how they move underwater, like flying worms, but with no ground! I would include a YouTube link, but I cannot stand to even do the search.
Finally, we ended with a classic moon cake: rich lotus seed paste and salted duck egg encased in a molded pastry. Right about now all the mooncakes in Chinatown are being marked down 50%. But it’s better when you eat it when celebrating Mid-Autumn Festival with Grandma and she says, in her loving, Grandmotherly way, “You’re pretty, but you’re too dark.”
That — along with Chinese food that’s a far cry from General Tso — is what makes my Moon Festival official.