I had to take some time off from blogging. In fact, I disappeared almost entirely from the internet for the month of December. The holidays were part of it, but not entirely.
Back in September, my father in law was diagnosed with the late stages of stomach cancer. When we went to visit the family in east Texas for Thanksgiving, he was being checked into a hospice. There was no way we could go back to Atlanta at that point, so we massively rearranged our lives so we could stay in Texas until the end. Joseph Liang passed away quietly on December 18th. Since then, I've been trying to make up missed school work and get caught up on the rest of my life that I missed. Blogging here did not seem like a priority.
Though I would like to talk about Joseph for a bit. My father in law was a very kind man. He could have been furious that his only son chose to marry a white woman and live with her three states away, rather than marry a good Chinese girl nearby. If he ever disapproved of our choices, he never let on. Instead, he treated me like a daughter from the moment my husband said we were getting married. Oh, he made no secret that he wanted us living closer, but it was never said in a hurtful way.
Joseph came from a long line of professional chefs. My husband is actually the first Liang in several generations to not be a chef. Joseph's own father cooked for Nixon when the President made his historic visit to China. The Liang's settled in Tyler, Texas, and opened the eponymous restaurant they are best know for there. My husband and his sisters grew up in that restaurant, waiting tables, working the register and folding wontons and eggrolls in the kitchen. They sold it just before I met my husband to retire, but got bored and opened a new fast casual place called "Ming's Cafe".
People always ask if I learned how to cook anything from my father in law. I do have some of his recipes. Passing on recipes to me was always problematic. Joseph cooks like me, without a written guide, improvising on the spot. I'd have to watch him several times to get something down and infrequent visits during the holidays were not conducive to learning to cook.
Also, no matter how hard I try, I will never get it right. There was a certain magic to the way Joseph worked, a kind of wizardry I can't replicate. He tried to show me once how to fold a pork dumpling. My clumsy hands couldn't replicate it. My husband can't quite manage it either, but his come much closer to the neat, fluted pleats his father made. So while I do make Chinese at home, I don't say that I make Liang family recipes. Those belong to other people.
One of the Chinese traditions that I like is the ancestor shrine. We have a big framed picture of Joseph in our kitchen now. Jimmy placed an offering of three oranges on a plate in front of him. I gave him a shot of whiskey. The picture is from Jimmy's college graduation party. Joseph is in his kitchen at home, cooking. There's big bowls of mu shu pork around him, and it looks like he's pouring a noodle dish out of his wok and onto a plate. This is how I'll always remember him, in the kitchen, happy.