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This is the beginning of our series from "Grandma's Kitchen." Future articles will focus on cooking from different Asian countries, with an emphasis on traditional home cooking -- the kind that brings forth memories of love and warmth from days past.
Picture of Grandma

Grandma's Kitchen:   Soybean Magic

by S. Yi
Grandma’s Kitchen is a magical place where wonders are created out of ordinary things. No modern gadgets, no gleaming pots and pans, no powerful stove, no exotic spices, nothing in her kitchen looks magical. But her spatula is her magic wand out of which simple, ordinary things turn into great, tasty food.

No matter how great a restaurant is, one gets tired of it day in and day out. But a person eating the meals coming from Grandma’s Kitchen never wearies of her treats. The ultimate taste lies in the food’s simplicity, subtlety, and delicacy, and the compassion that goes into its cooking, and above all, the small percentage of unpredictability of emerging tastes makes it ever more interesting and anticipation arousing. This is because Grandma does not follow a recipe; how much of this or that ingredient used in a dish depends on her mood, her physical condition, and what is available at the time of cooking.

However, most people cannot be successful with such a seemingly random style of cooking, because he or she lacks the instincts of a grandma, developed from years of cultivation. It may sound like a contradiction to link "cultivation" and "instinct," but this is untrue.
Confucius once said: "After one is seventy years old, one can do anything at will without compromising any existing rule." What he meant is that when a person is so old, their natural self and their cultivated self become one and the same. That philosophy is revealed in Grandma’s cooking. So, you have to be a grandma to have a Grandma’s Kitchen to cook those wonderful meals.

However, we can at least imitate. According to Plato, everything is an imitation of an ideal anyway. One day, we (that is, my aunt and I) tried a scientific way to imitate Grandma’s cooking, that is to duplicate it however successfully. We divided Grandma’s continuous motions into discrete steps, halted her at the end of each step, and measured each ingredient that she was going to put into the wok. Two of the dishes she cooked that night (both turning out great) are linked below. My aunt claimed that one of them was a little salty, but she considers even two grains of salt as too salty, so it was her own problem. (Depending on how finicky your taste buds are, you may alter these recipes to suit your tastes.)

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