Fried Fish MAG

June 28, 2012
By Joanna Sng BRONZE, Lansdale, Pennsylvania
Joanna Sng BRONZE, Lansdale, Pennsylvania
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The sharp crackle of garlic hitting hot oil penetrated my sleep-induced grogginess. Stretching lazily, I peered over the arm of the couch where I had dozed. She was at it again. I still could not understand why she insisted on preparing lunch when there was a servant to do such things.

My grandmother waddled out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on the corner of her grease-splattered apron as she clucked over the dirty dishes I had left scattered in the living room. She crossed the room to the couch and started fluffing the pillows beneath my head. I listened as she told me, for what seemed like the thousandth time, that no one could ever cook the way she does. Adamantly, she declared that I would find someone else cooking in her kitchen over her dead body. With another thump to the cushions, she rose from the couch and returned to the kitchen. I trailed after her, hoping to persuade her to leave the steamy heat of the kitchen. Without sparing a glance toward me, she plopped two fish into the sputtering oil and garlic mixture. The frying fish turned a deep golden brown as I gazed into their sightless eyes.

My father would be coming downstairs soon, and he would demand to know why I had not offered to cook. I looked again at the dented wok in which the fish sizzled. Maybe I should offer to cut vegetables or something. I picked up the dense metal chopper and began slicing the choy sum. As I moved the knife up and down over the leafy green vegetable, she put her wizened hand over mine and guided my movements. In moments, the large leaves were reduced to a pile of spoon-sized pieces. She stepped back as I slid the vegetables off the wooden chopping board and into the pot of boiling water. I turned around to find her removing her apron. I stood stiffly as she slipped the worn linen over my head and tied the strings at the small of my back. She handed me her pair of wooden chopsticks and plodded out of the kitchen.

I retrieved the cooked fish from the wok and placed them on a bowl of rice. Stepping into the dining room, I found my grandmother sitting by the window, staring at the banana tree that grew just outside. A half smile played at the corners of her mouth. I sat beside her. She placed her arm around my shoulders and drew me to her side. I knew then that she had been waiting for me. Her joy was in giving me the chance to discover my own way.

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