Now when I look back I greatly regret that although Mother had cooked for me for almost four decades, I can’t remember any of her dishes except one – pan fried red snapper.
However, there was one of her cooking incidents that I’d never forget. One evening my father, as usual, was out gambling, even though he was already heavily in debt from his previous gambling. That night, Mother cooked for the three of us even though he was not home. I don’t remember any of the dishes, only how much effort she put into cooking them.
Even though our the family didn’t have much money left, Mother decided she would splurge on one lavish meal after so many frugal ones -- we didn’t know if there would be any money for our next meal, let alone a nice one. Even though Father was away, we’d enjoy the food together and there would be plenty left over for him when he returned.
But when Mother was carrying the steaming dishes to the table in the living room, the door bell rang. During those days, our only visitors were usually not friends but debt collectors. Frightened, Mother’s hands shook and all the dishes fell. Meat, fish, vegetables crashed to make pretty but no longer edible blossoms on the floor.
We didn’t pick up the dishes but held our breath and waited till the intruder’s footsteps vanished. Of course we went to bed with none of the food in our stomach but only in our imagination and maybe later in our dreams.
I don’t remember if Mother ever cooked another lavish meal after that. But from then on, I never wasted even a grain of rice – or anything else for that matter.