Land of Condiments
My parents come from Laos, the land of condiments. Every bottle, every jar reminds me of them.
When mum made Pho, you could smell the broth while it simmered all morning. Then at lunch you would gleefully season your own bowl. A little soy, a little sugar, a squeeze of lemon, a dash of Heinz tomato sauce and pepper. Then mum would taste it to make sure it was just right.
When mum made me eggs with Maggi sauce sprinkled on top to eat with sticky rice. When dad made me Jeow, (a Lao sweet and salty dipping sauce) with chillis and herbs freshly pick from the garden with Healthy Boy Brand Soy sauce.
I may not always understand my parents or Lao culture which I often feel dissconnected from. But when I make Lao food for them, for my husband and a few special friends. I hope my parents see that I watched them as I was growing up and I learnt and remembered. That I am appreciative and grateful.
Growing up my sister and I didn’t have many toys so we would make up our own games.
One of the games we invented involved some soap, 2 plastic cups, and the bathroom.
First step was to wet the floor and then rub soap all over the tiles. Then we would turn the cups upside down, and stand on top of them and slide from one end of the bathroom to the other. It was our own povo home job version of ice skating.
I can still hear how hard we would laugh.
I don’t know how we didn’t seriously injure ourselves.
Tomato sauce| ນ້ ຳ ໝາກ ເລັ່ນ|
Nam mak len
As a kid we always knew when we were having Pho for lunch because the process started early in the morning. I’d wake up to a huge pot bubbling away on the stove top. As the morning passed the smell of pho broth wafted through the house making your mouth water and your belly rumble. It was a labour of love getting the broth just right. I’d pick the tail off bean sprouts while my sister washed the herbs to garnish our Pho with, all under the watchful eye of our mum.
When it was time to eat Mum would ask how many noodles we thought we could eat and then fill the bowls with steaming broth with even amounts of meat balls for all. We’d carry the bowls to the table one by one and then it was time to season.
A little dash of soy, a spoonful of fish sauce, a bit of sugar, a sprinkle of pepper, a squeeze of lemon and a blob of tomato sauce. Tomato sauce made it sweet and tangy and oh so yum. Before I delved into the sea of noodles though I’d always ask mum to try my broth to see if it needed anything else. Sometimes I got it right, other times I’d need a little more of something to make it “Poh Dee (ພໍດີ)” which means just right in Lao, it’s that balance and sweet spot we’re all looking for.
Sound of Music VHS
Back in the day when you knew something was going to be on TV that you wanted to watch again, you would have to sit and wait with the video cassette in the video player ready to hit record. When a commercial came on, you would pause the recording and start it again when the program ressumed.
Sounds simple, but it was a skill to be able to anticipate when a commercial would be on so you didn't record any of it, and if you needed to pee you would have to scurry off to the toilet as quickly as possible and run back, or you would have to entrust another family member with the remote but who inevitably forgets to hit record.
Now you just turn on Netflix, and scroll endlessly looking for something to watch. No more going to Video Ezy and paying extra for a New Release, and getting a fine for returning it late. No more yelling "ITS OOOON!!!" to your sibling when they've gone to get a snack, and they scamper back like a rat so they don't miss anything.
My sister and I grew up watching the Sound of music on VHS. We would watch it endlessly on repeat and knew every song word for word. It's one of my happiest memories - singing songs with my sister. She could sing beautifully, while I was just really passionate and loud. So so loud.