Flavors of Home

Updated: Oct 29, 2018




Last week, I visited New York to see my daughter for the first time in two months since she left home for college. Unfortunately my son happened to break his collarbone the previous week, and the date of his surgery landed right in the middle of my already planned visit to the East Coast. I felt incredibly conflicted about whether to stay or go, and my five hour plane ride was fraught with anxious thoughts. And yet, throughout all of this chaos, as I slowly neared the subway stop at 116th Street, I became filled with a quiet, bubbling, almost giddy excitement. For months I had listened each day over the phone as my daughter spoke about her plans, her struggles, all her excitements, and her moments of sadness. But when I exited that subway station and saw her running towards me, and when she hugged me and I saw tears in her eyes, that was the moment when I truly understood; we stood together in the cold holding on to each other, bathed in feelings neither of us had ever quite felt.


During my three days in the city, Sakura showed me the kitchen where she had baked the apple tarts I wrote about in a post a while back. We decided to make another attempt at using the space. Taking a trip to the nearby Asian supermarket, we gathered our supplies, went back and cooked bibimbap (a Korean dish with rice, meat, and various pickled vegetables on top) together. I wish I could have pickled the vegetables for her and cooked everything from scratch. While the meal was in no way perfect (only having one set of eating utensils, we ended up using tupperware lids as plates), standing together at the small countertop, cooking and gossiping about useless things was strangely the one of the most enjoyable moments with her. Maybe it is because times like these are so limited that they feel so precious.


In Japan, there is an expression that says, “the flavors of home are always the best.” Of course, the bibimbap we cooked was just a collection of spices, grains, and vegetables, but it was special because a specific group of people in a specific place did something with those individual parts and turned them into a whole, a whole that was imbued with familial, intimate love, with casual conversation and deep connection, and with memories of the warmth of home. These are flavors that live on in us, in me, in my daughter even when she is so far from home, in my son who is currently on the mend back in California. My only hope is to continue to provide them when they are in need of that warmth.


先週末、ニューヨークで生活する娘の桜に会いました。運の悪いことに、ちょうどこの時期に鎖骨を骨折した息子の手術がこの旅行中にロサンゼルスであり、どちらをとるか迷いに迷っての出発となりました、機内ではとにかく息子のことが心配で気持ちが落ち着かなかったのですが、ニューヨークの空港から電車に乗り継ぎ、大学の最寄駅が近づいてくると、まるで恋人に会えるような気持ちでした。毎日電話口では分刻みで予定をこなす、気持ちの張り詰めた桜しか感じられなかったのに、地下鉄の出口で桜に「よく今日まで頑張ったね」と声をかけた時に彼女から溢れた涙を見た時には、彼女の心の奥深くが見えた気がしました。

先日、桜がりんごのデザートを作ったという寮内のキッチンに案内してもらい、二人で韓国スーパーで手に入れたお惣菜をつかってビビンバを作りました。出来合いのものも使っているのですから完璧な料理とは言えないものの、娘と二人でキッチンに立って、くだらない話をしながら料理するのが、こんなに楽しいことだったかと思いました。もっと今までにやっておけばよかった、と言ったらそれはむりです。でも、これからこんな時間をもてる機会がたくさん持てるように、お互い努力しないとだめなのかもしれません。もしも娘が同じことを望んで入れば、ですが、、。


よく日本では「家庭の味が一番だよね」という話になります。なんでこれが一番いいのか、そこには、ただ調味料の味だけではない、家庭の温かさや愛、その料理と一緒に交わした家族の会話や思い出が含まれているからでしょう。桜に、そして骨の痛みに苦しむ息子の春にも、この家庭の味は大事にしてもらいたいです。

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