Monday, October 04, 2010

Mango Lassis

In Hawaii, where I grew up, the term pake means both cheap/miserly and Chinese. gives two examples:

He no like buy, because it is not on sale, he so pake, yah? (Hawaiian pidgin English)

"Eh, look at those pakes over dere playing majiang."

While I don’t generally prefer to use ethnic slurs to define myself, it is true that I am pake in both senses of the word, which is why I currently only buy clothes at the Talbots Outlet when everything is 75% off the lowest price. I have a whole wardrobe of items that formerly cost $120 but cost me 8 bucks.

Being pake means I don’t like paying good money for something that I can make for cheap at home, much to the chagrin of my kids who want what they want when they want it rather than going home and waiting for Mom to buy all the ingredients and waiting again for her to get around to it. A major case in point is mango lassis. Mango lassis, the Indian mango and yogurt drink, are delicious and quite reasonably priced if you make them yourself. A Pakistani student taught me the recipe years ago and I make them all the time because they’re relatively healthy and the kids love ‘em.

But they’re usually at least $3.50 at Indian restaurants, and then they fill the glass mostly with ice so you’re paying a lot of money for about 2 oz of mango lassi. If I’m given the choice, when we eat Indian, I tell the kids we’re drinking water. But Scott is a softie whose family of origin values liquids while my family values solids, so he often capitulates and gives them the mango lassis, which they sip and then say aren’t as good as the ones we make at home, so leave untouched until all the ice melts—revealing the fact that only 2 oz of mango lassi had been poured into the glass as the top 3/4 is all murky water. That means I’ve spent ten bucks on ice mixed with a little yogurt that doesn’t even enter their systems.

Several weeks ago, I was charged with making mango lassis for the Harvard graduate student kick-off. After 14 quarts of yogurt, 18 cans of mango puree, a borrowed blender because my brand-new one broke after I attempted to puree a delicious bean dip, 2 bloody cuts from jagged can lids, 20 lbs of ice, and a delightful hour with my middle daughter who came to help, we produced at least 130 servings of mango lassis and used up every plastic cup I had bought at BJs Wholesale Club.

But like the Indian restaurants, my strategy to quench the thirst of 130 Harvard graduate students was to fill each cup to the brim with ice so the mango lassis would stretch.

What did I say? Pake.

Mango Lassi:

1/3 vanilla yogurt

1/3 mango puree (bought at Indian stores)

1/3 water

Blend in a blender and serve over ice (a lot or a little depending on whether you too are pake)

P.S. I like it more mangoey, so add more puree. If you use plain yogurt, you probably want to add some sugar. If you like it thicker, use less water.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Day-after-Birthday Rite of Passage

To mark turning 45 yesterday, I just changed my profile picture for both this blog and Facebook. I’ve been using the same 6 year old picture Scott snapped of me for everything that needed a photo, so if you Google me at “Images” that’s pretty much the only picture that shows up. When Scott took it, I thought I looked old. Now I look at it and I think wow do I look young. . . and good! This must be why they say youth is wasted on the young.

There are many reasons I’ve kept using a picture of myself as a 38 year old.

1. It was a good hair day—taken right after a haircut and blow-dry.

2. As the family photographer, I have almost no other photos. There are lots of pictures of my kids, my husband, the friends of my kids and perfect strangers who straggled into the shot, but not of me.

3. Any pictures that do exist usually are bad hair days.

4. Any pictures that do exist usually have random children hanging on me.

5. Lately, any pictures that do exist were taken by my kids, who delight in shooting me at odd angles, emphasizing my apparently overlarge nostrils, impending double chin, and whatever bad hair day I’m having.

6. Figuring out the technology of posting new profile photos and taking the time to do it felt way too daunting for a middle-aged woman like me.

7. And last, but certainly not least, I hoped I still looked the same despite the passage of 6 years.

But now that my oldest daughter spends time she should be doing homework tending farm animals on Farmville, and therefore sees my FB profile far more than I do, she greeted me the day before my birthday when I had returned from a trip to Chicago with, “Mom, you’ve GOT to change your profile picture! You’re going to be a 45 year old woman and it’s just WRONG to use that old one.”

So this morning, as I’ve spent 3 hours playing on FB because I’ve been waiting for my new washing machine to appear, and then after it did, for the service guy to come because the washing machine wouldn’t work (see blog post on Laundry which details how I don’t have the spiritual gift of appliance discernment), I decided to lessen my children’s humiliation and change the picture.

It wasn’t easy. After weeding out the bad hair/large nostril/double chin/sagging middle pictures, I was left with either a cropped picture that included my husband’s chin and second daughter’s arm wrapped around my neck like a strange boa, or another cropped shot with a male stranger in the background and some woman’s hand raised as if it’s about to stroke my head. I chose the latter. Let me know what you think. . .

Thursday, April 08, 2010


For the past few months our washing machine that we bought 6 years ago when we bought our house, began making loud clattering sounds during the spin cycle. And despite the racket coming out of the machine, half the time, the clothes still came out sopping wet. In past weeks, the noise got so bad that it woke our kids when I washed clothes after bedtime, and one night I thought an intruder had entered our house. When it completely stopped spinning full loads, it was time to Google. And quickly I saw a bleak future for our Frigidaire front loading machine. Frigidaires, it turns out, are the pills of all front loaders despite what the nice Sears salesperson said to me six years ago when I forgot my Consumer Reports printout at home.

I told Scott that I thought we needed a new washer. He said he thought I was angling for a new washer because I’m jealous that both my sisters have these gigantic capacity front loaders with all the bells and whistles. He’s right.

Everyone in my nuclear family agrees that I lack the spiritual gift of appliance shopping. That somehow between wanting to save money and Consumer Reports recommendations, I end up purchasing lemons rather than the top-of-the-line products my siblings purchase. And then we all regret it. Refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, dryers—all failures in my purchasing prowess.

So I followed Scott's recommendation to see whether it was a quick and cheap fix and called the washer repair guy. He came over, stuck his hand in the machine, tugged at the drum that wobbled back and forth and said, “That’s it, you need a new machine.” As Google had already informed me, he said the cost of the fix was at minimum $900. Plus the $69.95 I was going to pay for his 2 minute assessment in confirming Google. Like I said, we’re not gifted in appliances here.

But the repair guy made me feel even more paranoid about my ability to purchase a new appliance when he said that he sees 100 Frigidaires for every 5-6 Whirlpools, but that all front-load washers have at most a 5-10 year life-span, and that top loaders have a 10-15 year life. He basically said we’re at the mercy of companies that make self-destructing machines--just plan on it.

So of course, I had to get back on the computer and do research. Among other things I found out that Cash for Clunkers for appliances begins April 22nd and I can get a $150 rebate if I can get a reservation that day on-line. And companies may be offering great rebates at the same time as incentives.

I decided to see whether we can make it to April 22nd. I firmly instructed all three kids they had to wear each pair of pants at least 2-3 times. One child (who shall remain nameless) pointed out that I had ordered this same child to wash pants each wearing because said pants reeked. I said I assumed this child had finally learned how to properly wipe after pooping so that there was no reason for pants to smell after one wearing. Another child, who’s known to throw every sweater and fleece in the hamper after just minutes of wear, was threatened within an inch of said childish life if I found a single piece of outerwear in hamper. By the end of the week, the piles in each hamper were admirably small—still fitting within the baskets instead of toppling over.

But when I told the kids I was taking the laundry to the Laundromat down the street, independently, both girls said, “What? But then people will think we’re poor!”

I worried when we moved to Winchester that my kids would become entitled spoiled brats. Now I don’t have to fear anymore, because they indeed have become entitled spoiled brats.

“We’re not poor, so what does it matter what people think of us?” I asked one daughter.

“It’s embarrassing! What if my friends see us? What if they see my underwear out there in public?”

Given how none of my three kids seems to have minded friends seeing their underwear strewn around our family room when they’ve refused to fold clothes, or strewn around their bedrooms when they haven’t bothered with the hamper, I don’t see the big deal with the Laundromat, except of course, that then they look poor as well as slobby.

I drove the laundry to the Laundromat, defended the sixth washing machine I had filled from a woman who wanted to wash just one towel—felt like a jerk, but please, if I let her take that washer, it would have added a whole cycle to the time I had to wash clothes.

Over $30 dollars in quarters later ($18 for 6 washer loads, umpteen for 4 minutes of drying time each quarter, plus the 4 I lost to the defective dryer), I realized that despite how using a Laundromat might make us look poor, it was really for rich folks. At that rate, in one year I could literally buy us a $1560 new washing machine. At that rate, by the time April 22nd comes around I might have spent darn close to the $150 rebate I’m hoping to receive since our 6 loads didn’t include washing sheets, or the load I ended up taking home to dry, and relied on our kids faithfully wearing only 2 pairs of pants a week.

So maybe I should go ahead and buy the washer now, even without the rebate. But that still leaves the question of what to do with my spoiled entitled kids, one of whom said to my challenge, “Well we live in Winchester and no one uses the Laundromat, what do you expect?”

I have to say I can’t wait for our kids to join the proletariat when they go to college and are forced to live a life of public washers powered only by quarters. Think we’ll let them come home to wash clothes? No way.

And then there’s that other question, the one that no one, not even Consumer Reports can answer—what machine, and how will I ever receive the gift of appliance discernment?

Thursday, April 01, 2010


(This short article was written for the April edition of InterVarsity "About Women" staff website, therefore only available to InterVarsity staff!)

Growing in Self Clarity

The first time I directed a conference, even though it went well, I was left with bitterness, exhaustion and loneliness. Despite enjoying a growing ministry, I felt engulfed by demands and 70-80 hour workweeks. Driving home with my boss Bobby, we talked about how I felt driven by my "life parable," the parable of the talents, compelled to use the two talents God had given me and turn them into four.

"I think you need a new life parable," said Bobby. "Maybe the parable of the vineyard where everyone works a different amount but gets paid the same?"

"But I hate that parable - it's so unfair!"

Bobby grinned, "Even more reason that might be a good new life parable!"

In that moment, Bobby helped me question my theology, my motivations and my orientation towards God — an essential moment of self clarity.

Using Pots of Clay

As InterVarsity staff, the primary instrument we bring to campus ministry is our whole self - our ethnic and gender identity, gifts, motivations, sin patterns, and life-stage. We are complex creatures who reflect the glory of God's image as well as the notoriety of the fall. Our hearts are deceitful beyond all things (Jer. 17:9) yet God chooses to use our leaky little pots of clay (2 Cor. 4:7) to pour out the good news of Jesus Christ. The better we know our instrument, the more we continually grow in self-clarity, the more God can use us.

As women, investing in self-clarity can feel self-indulgent. Because we so easily lose ourselves in our roles — mother, wife, sister, daughter, staffworker, supervisor, friend — we can forget that God created us as individuals for Himself. We can forget that Jesus seeks to know us, like the good shepherd looking for his lost lamb,. In the process, He helps us know ourselves as well.

Spiritual Disciplines

Here are some spiritual disciplines to help us grow in self-clarity:

  1. In Examen we ask the Holy Spirit to help us look at our actions and motivations each day with honesty, patience and grace. We look for the work of God, and our response to God's action, responding with thanksgiving, penitence and petition.
  2. In Community, if we are brave enough to risk hard conversations, we can learn how we impact others, both positively and negatively. We often learn our hidden sins from those we have power over more than those with power over us, which is why 360 reviews are so helpful. Honest talks with spouses, friends, students, and colleagues are all ways to get helpful feedback.
  3. Learn everything we can in Conflict. The older we get, the more we have the same conflicts. This is a sure sign that God wants us to work on some sin pattern or brokenness within us!
  4. Personality Tests OK, maybe these aren’t spiritual disciplines, and I admit I'm a personality test junkie. But tools like Myers-Briggs, DISC, Enneagram, Strengthfinders and SIMA have all been incredibly helpful in understanding myself, how I work with others, and how I can grow. They’re a perk in IVCF, so take advantage of them!

What am I still learning almost 20 years since that conversation with Bobby? I am not a workaholic. Neither am I a perfectionist. Instead, I’m a responsibility driven woman with a significance addiction that came in part from the way I was raised by Chinese immigrant parents. I am complex. I am broken. I am juggling a lot with 3 kids and a husband. And all that has implications for those who live with me, work with me and love me. But as I grow in self-clarity, which always leads to humility, the glory of God shines from the cracks of my clay pot.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What's Worth Doing?

At my spiritual retreat to evaluate my job as Area Director last week, it was St. Ansgar day. The most notable achievement of Ansgar, according to all the readings, was that he completely failed at almost everything he attempted. Although he was eventually credited with the conversion of Scandinavia, I couldn’t tell how his actions even lay the groundwork for mass revival actually. Yet according to everything I heard, what we learn from Ansgar’s life is perseverance, and the hope that our labor, although it feel futile, may ultimately result in huge good. The priest who gave a guest homily quoted Reinhold Niehbur:

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we are saved by love.

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.

“That’s deep,” I thought, as I listened. But then when I got back to my cell, I started bristling at that first quote. “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.” Is that true?

Now, as a significance junkie, I’m sure that all my deep-seated sin confuses the matter, and given that all I’ve ever read of Niebuhr are those three quotes, I’m sure I’m getting him wrong. But the more I thought about those words, the more I thought only a man could come up with something that inane.

“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in a lifetime. . .” Is that true?

Basically then, everything that is considered “women’s work” is completely useless, nursing, cooking, raising children, changing diapers, teaching children, etc.

What in the heck is worth doing that takes more than a lifetime? What was Neihbur or the priest thinking? Building bridges or skyscrapers? Converting whole countries? Abolishing the sex trade? While all of those are good and noble purposes, and most of them probably take more than one lifetime, it seems to me that it’s far more hopeful to remember that the God who created the universe with its multitude of stars and galaxies and black holes somehow also cares about the smallest most minute things. In Jesus, we see a man who took time from rushing to heal an official’s dying daughter, to talk to an outcast woman who touched the hem of his cloak. We see a man who chastised his disciples who were concerned about big important things like overthrowing the Roman empire and told them to let the little children come to him.

I felt personally affronted by the quote precisely because my hope has been that God cares more about the small hard faithful steps I have made rather than the big splashy leaderish things I could have been doing. For me, that call involved being present to my children as they grew up. 20 years ago, I heard someone referred to me as “the Amy Grant of InterVarsity.” Well choosing to work part-time and cease involvement in national committees and national travel means I’m no Amy Grant in InterVarsity anymore, but then Amy Grant isn’t who Amy Grant was either.

My hope has to come from a God who cares about small things that are worth doing because it can’t come from the results of my decisions. My children are no paragons of virtue.

I don’t feel more hope because nothing worth accomplishing can be done in my lifetime. I live in hope because Jesus said the widow who gave 2 pennies gave more than all the rich men pouring their treasures into the temple combined. I live in hope because each small step he calls me to cannot be measured by worth or accomplishment. I live in hope because He has promised that a tiny mustard seed can grow into the largest bush in the garden, so large and stable that birds can nest in its branches and children can play in its shade.

And maybe that was the gift of St. Ansgar, the total failure. Many small faithful unsuccessful steps that were the tiny mustard seed that grew Christendom in Scandinavia

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I’m a tiny bit famous for my chili. Frankly, you can’t survive 20 years of campus ministry without a chili recipe that feeds the hordes. I’ve made huge pots of chili for Columbia students, staff colleagues, Harvard students, faculty from Boston, not to mention many church, family and friend gatherings. Former students tell me when they reminisce about college fellowship days, they talk about my chili—that’s how good it is.

When I cook chili it grows and expands like Jesus multiplying loaves and fishes. I’ve had friends watch this process and laugh because the pound of ground turkey I begin with doesn’t look like much, but 15 minutes later, as I transfer overflowing chili to another pot the quantity seems truly miraculous. Twelve years ago, the chili I made for a Super Bowl party not only fed the 10-15 folks at the party, but the 15 women who came to the Community meal at our church later that week along with our entire small group that was volunteering. On top of that, we scrounged up quart sized yogurt containers and every single woman took home one to two quarts of my chili. Only then did we scrape the bottom and wash the 20 quart pot.

But Jesus says a prophet has no honor in her own home, and this applies to chili just as much to words from the Lord. We haven’t hosted a Super Bowl party since that expanding chili party. Instead, we’ve enjoyed the hospitality of my friend Jean and eaten her chili. And my kids FAR prefer her chili to mine.

All night long, as the TV blares and the men gather in front of the screen, we ladle bowls of Jean’s chili with its big chunks of beef chuck, a recipe straight out of the New Basics cookbook, my three kids approach me and say:

“Jean’s chili is SO good!”

“Jean’s chili is SO much better than your chili.”

“Can you make Jean’s chili?”

“I want you to make Jean’s chili instead of your chili.”

“Let me tell you again that I like Jean’s chili better than yours.”

“Can you get the recipe from Jean so you can make her chili?”

I can’t shut them up. I demur with,

“Yes, Jean’s chili is delicious.”

“Isn’t it great that you get to eat Jean’s chili once a year?”

In the spirit of “every family has its different rules,” I even try the “Jean makes her chili and I make mine” parry. But they know that I’m pacifying them so they step up the pressure until I’m hearing:

“Your chili sucks! Jean’s chili is AMAZING!”

They just won’t shut up. And when my middle child, the most persistent foodie of the three kids, finally realized I actually own the New Basics so have the ability to make Jean’s chili, her wrath knew no bounds.

Why don’t I just capitulate and make Jean’s chili? Well first, I actually like my chili. Also, when I cook I try to make healthy foods as delicious as possible. My chili uses ground turkey, beans and tons of vegetables. Because I know it’s so healthy, I don’t feel bad about adding a sprinkle of extra sharp cheddar and a dollop of sour cream. I don't feel bad if my kids wan to eat it for breakfast, lunch and snack. The extra deliciousness that chunks of beef chuck would add just isn’t worth it. And chunks of beef chuck not only take time in the butchering, but also don’t go as far with a crowd. My Chinese frugal soul loves that a couple pounds of ground turkey can eventually feed 50, if not 5000.

All these thoughts and musings about chili cross my mind because I just made a humungo batch in my new 12 quart pot I found at Home Goods and the Super Bowl is next weekend. After feeding my staff team on Friday, tonight I feed the Cana Marriage ministry, and given that once again, the chili overflowed my new pot, I assume we will have chili on hand for many days to go. I will probably freeze a bunch after tonight. I’m not sure if Jean is hosting her Super Bowl party this year, but if she does, I will be eating Jean’s delicious chili next weekend, enjoying it and feeling grateful for her generous hospitality.

As will my kids.

MacTuan’s Loser Vegetable Chili

4 Tbs. Canola Oil

2.5 lbs. ground turkey (or can use beef)

8 medium/large onions, diced

10 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

2 cups Chili powder

1/4 cup Cumin powder

1/4 cup Oregano

2 tsp. cayenne powder (optional since this is really hot stuff)

2 lbs. dried beans, soaked and cooked until very soft (I don't know how many cans of beans this would be--suffice it to say, a lot!)

4 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes

4 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes, tomatoes cut into large chunks

4 cans corn

2 lbs. carrots diced

4 cups frozen peas (can buy the frozen peas and carrots for ease of preparation)

4 Zucchinis diced (I didn't use this because too expensive)

4 Peppers, Green, Red, Yellow, Orange, whatever color you want (I didn't use this because too expensive also)

Cheddar Cheese (I prefer extra sharp), grated

Sour Cream (I prefer light)



Minced Red Onions

In oil, saute the onions until soft, add the garlic, swish around a little, add the ground turkey, brown. When turkey is browned, add spices, and fry for several minutes to let the spices seep into the oil. Add beans, tomato and carrots. Let simmer for as long as you want. Between half an hour and 10 minutes of serving, add the other vegetables. Salt to taste. Serve over rice, offer cheese, sour cream and other condiments as a garnish.

I find that canned tomatoes add a lot of salt, so you really have to add very little. If you use canned beans, you may not have to add any salt. To make it more spicy-hot, add more cayenne pepper. To give it a richer chili flavor, add more chili powder, to make it more smoky, add more cumin.

You can obviously add or delete whatever vegetables you like. The flavor will be the same, but I like it more on the healthy side.

Note: I wrote this recipe because folks kept asking me for it, but everything is approximate. So add what you like in greater or lesser quantities.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Meeting with our youth pastor

Last Friday, Garry our new youth pastor, came over for dinner and to create a spiritual plan for our daughters. I had planned to make Mama's pork chops in cream of mushroom soup because the pork chops had been defrosting in the fridge for awhile and I was getting a lot of pressure from the kids to cook them. But in the afternoon, I had a little panic attack. It felt dishonoring to feed a new acquaintance a meal seasoned by Campbell’s--like feeding the youth pastor Campbell’s flavored food meant I valued him on par with ready-made American casseroles.

So I made coq au vain instead. (This is why I love my new Christmas present deep freezer that replaced our 16 year old one—I can whip up meals because I store up ingredients!) Turns out my panic attack might not have been just a prideful egocentric need to assert my identity. Instead it might have been a word from the Lord. Because when Garry showed up, he told me he’s allergic to pork--that he starts sweating and turns faint within ten minutes of a bite.

Anyway, as we sat down with Ling-Ling, our oldest child, Garry asked her all sorts of questions, prefacing them all with, “I’ve talked to your parents. There’s nothing you can say that will get you in trouble. You can tell the truth and not be worried.”

He needn’t have feared. Ling-Ling has no trouble saying whatever’s on her mind. When he asked “What do you like the best about your mom?” Ling cocked her head and said, “She cooks good food almost every night.” Ever since we got our kitchen re-done and I could only grill or sauté in an electric skillet, the kids have come to a new appreciation for my cooking.

“Anything else?” he prodded her.

“Well, she’s easy to talk to. I can talk to her about pretty much anything.”

Whew! A human quality she appreciates.

“What don’t you like about your mom?”

Uh-oh, here it goes. And as I suspected, Ling had no problem plunging in, “I don’t like how she yells at someone every day. I don’t like the one morning she’s around before school because she gets in a battle with the other two kids about waking up. On mornings she’s not here, it’s really nice and peaceful with Dad.”

For Dad, she reiterated liking the peace of the mornings, how he makes funny jokes and how they make fun of church songs together. Garry seemed a little shocked to hear our family’s bastardizing of “We’re blessed! Blessed! Blessed! Blessed!”

Describing what she didn’t like about Scott, she said, “Dad is like a soda bottle that you shake and shake and shake until it finally explodes.”

She looked at us and laughed. “I think our family has anger management problems.”

I nodded and agreed, trying to look calm and wise and open to airing our dirty laundry. We’ve talked quite a bit about our anger issues as a family, and are pretty transparent about it with our friends. Yet here sat a young man whom we barely know, who’s called to shepherd our children, hearing the truth of our family. But it felt oddly good to let him see our family warts and all.

I truly do have anger management issues. In fact, rage seems to be passed down the female line of my family. My Puo-Puo was known for her temper—even setting down her purse and kicking it on her first date with Gong-Gong because the movie they meant to see in 1920s China wasn’t playing. His response was “Uh-oh, I think I’m going to be in trouble.” My mother has a temper and her temper’s been passed down to me. I swore as a child I would never yell at my kids the way she yelled at me, but instead, I think I’m much worse.

I’ve done just about everything I can to battle my rage. I’ve repented from the childhood vow about not being like my mom. I've read books. I've been in therapy. I’ve gone up for prayer during church repeatedly—for several years, just about every Sunday I got prayer for my anger issues. I did the 20 week Living Waters inner healing course. I’ve even had people bind the demons and cast them out. Yet despite it all, I still lose my temper just about every day. Every night, as our family prays I have to either say, “I’m sorry for losing my temper with ____” or “I’m sorry I was impatient with ___.” My lack of progress around anger issues has often left me with deep feelings of shame.

The interview with Ling-Ling took almost an hour and a half, so when Kai-Kai, her younger sister, came up, we had to rush a little bit more. If Ling doesn’t care what others think, Kai-Kai is the opposite, so we had to prod her to reveal anything negative. For my good qualities, she also said that I cooked good food and that I was easy to talk to. Apparently my strengths manifest the same ways for both girls. She wouldn’t confess the anger issues in our family, but we raised them and let her respond a bit.

Overall, it was an encouraging night. For both girls, we were able to talk about their potential, and both girls were encouraged to set dreams and goals for themselves. Garry didn’t start sweating profusely or faint because of the bacon I had added to the coq au vain, for which I felt profoundly grateful. We were all given the chance to speak the truth, not just the hard truth, not just the good truth, but to give Garry a holistic picture of our family and family relationships.

Yet rather than letting the truth of how our family has anger management issues dominate the entire portrait of our family or my entire identity as a parent, I somehow saw it as a significant piece, but not the only piece of what our family is about. And when I raised how Ling had good relationships with many of my friends, and how I’ve heard how a mom’s wise friends have a greater impact than the mom, I felt gratified that she said, “Yeah, but I would talk to you about everything way before I’d talk to any of them.”

Someday she may find the need to confide in one of my friends, or Garry, or another youth leader. I feel grateful that this web of relationships exists to catch her if the anger management issues in our family overwhelm her ability to come talk to me. But mostly I feel grateful that love covers a multitude of sins. Even anger.

(P.S. I made the pork chops the next night, and so can you!)

Coq Au Vin

(adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

1 bottle medium bodied red wine (I’ve used Trader Joe’s 2 buck chuck cabernet, shiraz and merlot and it’s been fine)

2 cups chicken broth

10 sprigs fresh parsley

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 bay leaf

½ lb bacon cut into ¼ inch slices

4-5 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs cut in half crosswise

Salt and pepper

5 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 bag frozen pearl onions

20 oz. mushrooms (button or cremini)

2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed

1 Tbs. tomato paste

2 Tbs. all-purpose flour

  1. Bring all but 1 Tbs wine, broth, parsley, thyme and bay leaf to simmer in large saucepan over medium high heat. Cook until reduced to 3 cups, about 25 minutes, discard herbs.
  2. Cook bacon in large Dutch oven until browned, using slotted spoon transfer bacon to paper towel-lined plate.
  3. Drain fat. Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat Dutch oven over medium-high until just smoking, add chicken in single layer and cook until lightly browned about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plate and repeat with remaining chicken and 1 Tbs. bacon fat.
  4. Melt 3 Tbs butter in dutch oven, add pearl onions and mushrooms, stirring until lightly browned.
  5. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic and cook until quite fragrant, 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and flour, cook stirring frequently until well combined about 1 minute
  6. Add reduced wine mixture, deglazing pan. Add ¼ tsp pepper. Return chicken, accumulated juices, and reserved bacon to pot, increase to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot and simmer until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.
  7. Using slotted spoon, transfer chicken to large bowl. Increase heat to medium high and simmer sauce until thick and glossy about 5 minutes. If it won’t thicken, add some flour mixed with water.
  8. Off heat, stir in remaining 2 Tbs. butter and reserved 1 Tbs wine. Season to taste with salt. Return chicken to pot and top with minced parsley. Serve immediately over noodles or with mashed potatoes.

Note: I’ve added a ton more chicken, onions and mushrooms to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe because there’s enough sauce for it all and why not make twice as much food and either eat it later in the week or freeze it?)

Pork Chops in Cream of Mushroom Soup

Pork Chops in Cream of Mushroom Soup

Canola Oil

4-5 lbs pork chops (about 12 chops)


Garlic Salt (I like Lawry’s the best)


4 cans Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup

1. Mix a bunch of garlic salt and pepper in a cup or two of flour in a plastic bag. (sorry, don’t do any measurements here, just dump things together)

2. Rinse each pork chop in water to get any scum or bone meal off, shake and bake the pork chop in the flour mixture,

3. Heat oil in large Dutch oven, brown 3 pork chops at a time on both sides.

4. When all pork chops are browned, remove them all, dump in one can of cream of mushroom soup and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

5. Add a layer of pork chops, put some cream of mushroom soup on top, add another layer, etc. until all the pork chops and soup are in pot.

6. Rinse cans dumping water from one to the other and add to pot.

7. Braise pork chops for 1-2 hours until pork chops are meltingly tender

8. Serve over rice or barley

Note: This is my mother’s recipe, probably off a Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup can in the 60s. It was one of the few “Haole” dishes we ate growing up.