This week I had visit from my friend Lucy (much different than the visit from the other Lucy) to cook fresh Chinese food for lunch in my tiny kitchen. Lucy was a little late because she went to the farmers' market and got caught up in the abundant possibilities of the harvest which is still rolling in strong here in the Bay Area. She kept changing her menu based on what she was finding. This seemed to make her very happy, a feeling I completely understood.
We had chive pancake, hot and sour soup, mountain mushrooms and seitan, and stir-fried long beans. And rice. And a cherry custard tart (my contribution) and green tea for dessert. It was our typical arrangement: she used almost every pot in the kitchen and we ate almost every bite of food.
Lucy and I have cooked together a lot over the years and each time I learn something new from her. Sometimes it's simple things, like the original use of the colorful enamel bowls that I had picked up in Chinatown. "These are from the 70's!" she exclaimed, seemingly amused. In China, people carried them to work and school and brought them to cafeterias for their lunch. "Are they still doing this?" "Not any more. We have disposables now." "Too bad." "Yes. Too bad."
Other times I have learned how to peel and slice fresh lotus root and water chestnuts, or fill and seal dumplings. I have learned to appreciate pea shoots, tell the difference between the many different tofu and bean curd products, and that the common Chinese greeting for "hello, how are you?" is "Ni Chi Li Ma" or "have you eaten yet?" I consider it a special day when I can go to the Chinese market on Clement Street with her and wander the isles, picking up some strange, some familiar ingredients.
Lucy's food is fresh tasting, comforting, and abundant; it's not flashy or confrontational. She loves gathering friends around the table and feeding them, expressing love and kinship and appreciation. We laugh a lot when eating Lucy's food and I think it nourishes her as much to feed us as it nourishes us to be fed by her.
Are there any Lucy's in your life? Or maybe you are a Lucy yourself, offering good food and friendship and many opportunities to burst into laughter.
(Image: Dana Velden)