Sunday, October 22, 2006

little kitchen in the condo

In my youth, I would hide from my mother behind the sofa so that I could read Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Back then, the incongruity of a t-shirt wearing, Asian-American girl dreaming about being Laura Ingalls was lost on me. I longed for calico dresses and my mouth watered for such exotic foods like fried potatoes with salt pork, mashed turnips and hulled corn.

But, now, no more! I’ve been captivated by my recent purchase of The Little House Cookbook. It’s been in existence for over 20 years, but I’ve just discovered it. My inner child rejoices! Finally, I can actually taste the foods I’ve read about for so long.

And so far I have made Almanzo Wilder’s favorite dish: apples n’onions. It’s a pretty easy dish (fry apples and onions) but the gastronomical joy is great. Highly recommended.

This tasty achievement, of course, leads me to fantasizing about a cookbook made from my own books. My mind explodes with possibilities. It could be a cookbook filled with Asian cuisine recipes, just like the dishes my mother cooked for me. Who knows, perhaps kids reading my books are suddenly developing a craving for bowls of white rice, sweet pork buns and stir-fried noodles. It could be a smash hit.

But reality sinks in. I realize that my book is called The Year of the Dog and that is just not an appetizing title for a cookbook.

Which is not the first time my titles have thwarted me. Just be glad that the cupcakes I’m making for our Cupcake Contest (that YOU can win) are not from a cookbook called, The Year of the Rat.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

cover story

Last May, my friend Justina Chen Headley told me the back story of her cover art for Nothing But the Truth and a few White Lies. The book is about a “hapa”, a half white and half Asian girl, and the publisher was having problems finding an image of a girl that looked hapa-enough for Justina’s taste. Finally, they offered to let her find her own model and help art direct the cover. She found the perfect girl at a coffee shop, set up a photo shoot and voila! One of the most lovely covers I’ve seen.

And I have to admit I was a little envious. The cover of my book was my idea, but suddenly choosing a model and having a photo shoot just seemed so much more glamorous. And fun! I could have a call for entries, maybe a contest…my mind raced with the possibilities.

“Gee,” I said to my editor (who is also Justina’s editor), “I wish I could’ve chosen a model and done a cover like Justina’s.”
“I don’t think that would’ve worked,” she said, “How many girls would want to be on a cover of a book called, “The Year of the Dog?”
“Yeah, you’re right,” I said, “Maybe the next book.”
“But,” she said, “Your next book is called, The Year of the Rat!”

Ah, good point. Sigh.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

years go by

Today, as I was drawing I found myself staring at my hands. As I looked at them, slightly chapped, with slight scars and wrinkles, I suddenly realized--these are my mother's hands. Through some alchemy of time, my hands and I have become practical and aged.

And these changes fill me with bittersweet thoughts. I remember once, in my youth, thinking that I wanted to be just like my Mom. She could play the piano, wear lipstick, and buy candy any time she wanted to (though she never did). Adults could do that. I thought they were so lucky.

But surprisingly, adulthood has not been full of the simple pleasures I imagined. I’ve buckled under its pressures and it’s left wrinkles that can never be smoothed. And as I observe the invisible transformation of carefree to careworn, I can’t help but wonder-- when did this happen?

And I realize that this has happened when I wasn't looking, as most important things go. It's the moments I miss, the minutes and seconds I cancel or forget that all add up and become what changes me irreversibly.

Unless you believe those Oil of Olay ads.