Watch Monday Part 3: Final timepiece of the day is the one that means the most to me. This was the first watch I bought with my own money, earned from a New Year's Eve working coat check at the Japanese restaurant where my Mom waited tables. She got me that coveted one-night gig in a highly competitive process among her co-workers. The watch stopped working years ago but I'll keep it forever for the memories it evokes in me.
I’ve eaten crawfish only a handful of times in my life, usually as an ingredient in a dish like gumbo, never by itself. I’ve always enjoyed it, but in NYC you have to go out of your way to find crawfish. As a result, I don’t eat it much.
So you can imagine my delight when my sister told me that my family here in Houston have been cooking up large batches of it every Friday this crawfish season.
It helps that the price of live crawfish has been as low as $.99 per pound at H.E.B. , because last night they bought thirty-nine pounds of it.
That’s my uncle skillfully cooking the crawfish. The meal was accompanied by equally yummy garlic corn-on-the-cob and Seafood Alfredo. He says he learned how to make all of this from watching Top Chef.
The best part about eating food that requires disassembly is that it forces you to eat slow and chillax with your dining partners. Here, my sister and stepmom fill me on family
gossip news since my last visit to Houston.
Here’s what the pile looked like after we finished. I stayed at the table to continue shelling the crawfish, which my uncle will cook into other dishes like Crawfish Fried Rice.
My uncle ate last after cooking the entire batch of crawfish. Dessert was Häagen-Daz ice cream bars.
Needless to say, this was my favorite meal of the trip so far.
To remember you on the day you left us, I went to the place where you worked for a dozen years, six nights a week (sometimes seven), for eight to ten hours a day. You would come home reeking of food, oil, smoke. You did this because you had two kids to feed, a mom working in a Chinatown sweatshop, two mortgages left behind by your ex-husband.
It’s a tacky place now and probably was then, too. But when I was twelve, I thought it was cool that you worked there. The food tasted good and my friends were impressed that you waited tables at an exotic, expensive restaurant. Their parents worked at boring office jobs or stayed at home taking care of them. Your co-workers would tell me how hard you worked and how lucky I was to have you. The praise made me proud, but the impact of those words wouldn’t hit me until many years later.
Partly, it was your fault: you never let on how hard the job was, or how precarious our situation in life. Whenever we asked for money, you just gave it to us. You never told us that it meant doing an extra shift or losing your only day off. You never stopped working, even when things got better. You met a new husband, you sent two kids to expensive university, you found another home. You waited tables at other restaurants until, finally, you got to open a few of your own. Then you worked even harder.
Even at the end, you kept working, fighting even when it would have been easier to let go. It surprised everyone – except us. We knew you would never stop.
Thank you, Mom.蔡美麗 1947-2006
(Mt Fuji Steak House, West Orange, NJ)