With raven locks and big dark eyes, I skipped along the stony path to the village market, all the while my mother beckoned, “Solange! Hurry, hurry. We must gather the freshest vegetables, fruits, and seafood for the ‘Ceremony of the Remembrance of our Ancestors’. Everything must be the best available,” she insisted.
I tagged along the muddy streets behind my mother, distracted by all the sights and sounds of the vendors and farmers. This was the festive trek of our Vietnamese culture; rich with clatter and tantalizing aromas. The market place was as varied as the patterns in my mother’s flowing ao dai; it was a colorful as my grandfather’s kois, for which I cared each day after school.
The simple life, mixed with jaunts to the Phunhuan Market in Saigon, planted a seed in my heart. It was the love of cooking; the gratitude for the earth’s blessings and the reverence in which I was taught to prepare ingredients. Those lessons still ring in my head, as I can still hear my mother say, “Solange, the most important ingredient in the meal is the love for your family and friends.”