My Tofu Soup

April 16, 2011
By sweetmelody BRONZE, San Jose, California
sweetmelody BRONZE, San Jose, California
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"We choose to go…not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to measure and organize the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win." John F. Kennedy

“Hal-mo-ni! Come inside!” A petite figure sporting a pink visor and retro 60’s pants entered the kitchen with a pair of scissors in her right hand and in her left hand, a barrel twice her size filled to the brim with vegetables from her beloved garden. My grandmother and I planned at attempting a traditional seafood tofu soup, an Iron-chef worthy course meal, and we had all the ingredients laid out. Crimson peppers and lime green stalk onions were set out on the kitchen island behind the stiff tofu and freshly chopped garlic. My grandmother had taught me a plethora of cooking lessons in the past but this dinner was different- it would be our last and most special. If there could be anything that cooking teaches, it is much more than following a recipe and feeding famished bellies; it is learning that even perfect recipes do not guarantee perfection and when mistakes occur, taking a risk and tweaking the recipe to make it your own, creates something even better.

The water was boiling but the seafood was frozen badly and to our dismay, the meat had rotted. The green onions would not shred in the shredder because the blades wore out, and the sugar and salt were incorrectly labeled because my grandmother’s sense of taste had worsened so badly. I was frustrated beyond what words could express and it was then that my grandmother fed me a slice of her wisdom. As I was attempting to shred the onions with a blade that did not shred, my grandmother went to sharpen a scissor and taught me how to cut the stalks instead. Hal-mo-ni made me sieve out the meat and replace the seafood with sausage. Instead of using sugar, she instructed me to replace it with the correctly-labeled salt and pepper mix. She completely changed the course of the meal and its content but created the best soup our family now knows today as Hal-mo-ni’s Sausage soup.

I didn’t understand right away what she had taught me in the kitchen that night. It took cancer in my family, Hal-mo-ni passing away with Alzheimer’s, financial difficulties, poor relationships, and a father who swapped movie tickets for vodka, for me to realize that the last kitchen experience had taught me that nobody has the perfect recipe for life. Just like the water was boiling but the meat rendered useless, I held onto pride in my academic achievements that boiled over while my sense of humility was rendered useless. Instead of using the right spices in my life, I misused and abused the spice of Hopelessness and gave up trying to patch up the turmoil in my family. Attempting to shred my shame, I continued seeking relationships with peers that were unhealthy to me because I wanted to find love in all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways. Lastly, I had incorrectly distinguished the hope in life with the freedom of death and simmered in depression. But it was amidst these struggles that Hal-mo-ni’s slice of wisdom finally digested in my mind and soul. Hal-mo-ni would not have let these ingredients in my life continue cooking.

Consequently, I started swapping my ingredients for those of better quality. Instead of filling myself with pride, I chose to be less greedy with my academics and chose family over studies. I replaced Hopelessness with the spice, Confidence, and even ended relationships for the sake of better ones with my family. I even worked diligently to pry out of depression and today, I am coated with joy and passion for doing the things I love, with a cherry on top! I continue to add and take away ingredients to improve myself, and further better myself, but most importantly, take this experience and better the world. I have taken myself out of my life as the main course of the meal and I now see myself as the appetizer, adding a bit more flavor to the lives of those in need. With a future headed towards Nursing, I do not know what I may take out or add in my recipe but what I am sure is that I will continue adding more flavor and eating different versions of Hal-mo-ni’s Sausage soup in the lives I impact and change. Perfect recipes do not guarantee perfection and it’s actually better when mistakes occur. I took a risk and tweaked the recipe for Hal-mo-ni’s Sausage soup to make it my own, and I must admit, it’s even better.

The author's comments:
This was an essay I wrote for an internship in 2011. In memory of my beloved grandmother, rest in peace my wonderful cook.

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