Jewish Mother

pho

I had some friends over for dinner a few evenings ago. I made pho, but 2/3 of my guests had never had pho before, so I made another soup to make sure no one went home hungry. (We would later have pound cake and four different flavors of Ben & Jerry’s for dessert.)

As I got up from the table to get more food for my friend Rob, he said, “You’re like a Jewish mother.”

I smiled, it was not the first time I’d been paid that compliment. I love to cook only because I love to feed people. Originally this blog was meant as a food blog, my first post on fawnnguyen.com was about our Thanksgiving dinner in 2011.

Cooking and eating — acts that would save me from my miserable childhood.

The shame of being poor was all too obvious. My own body betrayed me, how would you hide your bones from threadbare clothing, how would you tell your tummy to stop growling. How would you hide your hunger.

My parents worked very hard to make sure there was food on the table — make that the floor, we ate sitting cross-legged on the floor — but there was never enough food. I had feelings of resentment toward my parents for having so many damn kids that they couldn’t fully feed. Thank God my younger brother died at birth or else there’d be eight children to feed.

My childhood memories, if I were brave enough to revisit them, would revolve around being hungry and craving for this food and that food. I now wonder if my siblings have the same memories. If they don’t, then they are big fat hairy liars. Or they were the culprits of my childhood hunger as they ate all my food.

I remember the two young boys’ faces and bodies as if I just saw them yesterday. My childhood self observed their plump faces, their bodies filled out their school uniforms, their suspenders stretched taut against their bellies. They were not hungry, they were fat, they were happy, their grandma beamed with pride.

I wanted to be like them. Fat and full of food. They knew no shame because their bones were not showing, their bellies did not grumble while doing school work. Of course they went to bed full.

Then I came to America. My 6th grade classmates called me chicken legs. I ate and ate until no one called me chicken legs any more. This is my freezer right now, not because I like ice cream all that much, I have them just in case you come to visit.

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