I’m so tired that I’m practically blogging with my eyes closed. But I have to write about this. I’ve been think about it a lot.
We had death in the family recently. My husband’s uncle passed away…he surrendered to Cancer. I also lost one of my uncles to Cancer a few months ago. Cancer can be a stealthy and silent serpent, creeping upon it’s prey. It envelops its victim by building a circular perimeter using it’s body and then twisting in and creeping closer and tighter, until there’s no escape. (Can you tell I’ve been watching Planet Earth series? Actually, it’s not from Planet Earth…it’s more like Kaa from The Jungle Book.) I was a little more detached from the emotion at the time, simply because I didn’t know him for many years, as did everyone else in the family. Still, the air was very heavy and the silence was deafening.
Most guests wear white or a very light color to Indian funerals, to represent the absence of color, unless of course you’re driving straight from work, in which case you feel like you’re the one person wearing herringbone pants and plum blouse. It was an open casket funeral, followed by a cremation. I’ve lost many aunts, uncles, and grandparents, but this was the first funeral I’ve been to where I was present for the cremation. When your relatives are oceans away, you miss the closure. My parents have lost at least 2 siblings each, and it must be unbearable to miss the moment to say goodbye, to release, to share the emotional suffocation with other loved ones who are equally hurting. The irony is that one comes to America for freedom and opportunity, yet is captive in the boundaries of the continent, enduring many punishments, like this one.
At the funeral I listened to the words spoken by his family. It’s interesting how all of the radiant qualities of a person are only embossed on a body once the soul has left it. Words are never so beautifully embroidered until they are quiet enough not to be heard. Is there anyone not guilty of this?
Every day that we’ve had our parents around is a good day. Every day. A blessing. You can’t really hear that appreciation sandwiched between the breathy Sigh when we answer the phone and the hostile “What, Mom?” but it’s there. Of course, I’m also thinking what others are thinking… “one day it’s going to be my turn. and I’m going to have to say bye to one of my parents. and i can’t do anything about it. and that’s gonna suck. ” Then I was talking to my husband about this thought process. That’s what we women do. We take a single brief thought and are very skilled at expounding it into a whole conversation. I said “you don’t know who you’re going to lose, or when, or how. Who says it’s going to be one of our parents that goes first anyway? I mean I could lose you…next week…in a car accident…the way you drive…”
You don’t need to know how the rest of the conversation went.
Isn’t our life just a game of poker? You don’t know what cards you were dealt. You might start with Pocket Aces…a generous extension from God or Fate. But a pair of Aces can all go to poo-poo if you see a suited sequence on The Flop.
There’s no way to know. Just go All In. All In. But make sure you share some words before the River, while the pot is good.
4 ounces dried rice sticks or vermicelli
1/2 pound extra firm tofu – I use less tofu
1 1/2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup julienned cucumber
Large handful of mixed herbs, coarsely chopped or torn (basil, mint, cilantro; if available: rau răm or Vietnamese coriander, tiá tô or Vietnamese perilla)
2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms, lightly sauteed
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons peanuts, chopped
1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add rice sticks. Stir and cook until noodles are white and tender but still firm, about 3-5 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water, fluffing the noodles to separate the strands. Drain again completely.
2) Cut tofu into bite-size pieces and press between clean kitchen towels or paper towels to rid of excess water.
Heat oil in a skillet and fry tofu until crispy and golden. Drain excess oil. I don’t do that part…after work, and exercise, I don’t have tofu time. Just throw it in!
3) Prepare the greens and set aside. (May be prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.)
In a small bowl, whisk together ingredients for sauce. Set aside. (May be prepared ahead of time kept in the refrigerator.)
4) Divide the noodles between two bowls. Arrange greens and tofu on top and garnish with peanuts. Just before eating, drizzle with sauce to taste and toss.