Porpor and I: the interview

By Dylan Goh from Recipes for Resistance, 2021.

“Porpor and I: the interview” was recorded around the time of the Dragon Boat Festival (龙船节). This day typically involves the gathering of family to eat zongzi (粽子) – a glutinous rice dish stuffed with ingredients and wrapped in bamboo leaf. In the time of COVID-19, this dialogue between my grandma (婆婆), mum (媽媽) and I (我) was from a phone call. 

婆: 

So you’re very lucky. That’s how it is.

媽:

Lucky, lucky.

我: 

That’s true.

婆: 

Hello?

媽:

Hello, mum?

婆: 

Yes.

媽: 

Is everything ready?

婆: 

Nothing to fix up. Just a plate in the sink.

媽: 

Dylan will interview you now. I wanted to brief you first. He will ask you questions and if he doesn’t ask clearly, then I will add on. It’s only a few questions about food. Not too long. Okay, Dylan will start asking you questions.

我: 

Hello grandma!

婆: 

Yes, what is it?

我: 

Can I record you?

婆: 

That’s fine. Just ask and I’ll answer.

我: 

When you were a child, who did you eat with?

婆: 

At that time, it was with your great-grandpa, great-grandma and your granduncle. That’s my younger brother. Just us four. 

我: 

What did you like to eat? 

婆: 

At that time, there was no say about what you like to eat. It’s just if there’s something to eat, then you eat. 

我: 

Usually what did you eat?

婆: 

I don’t remember. It was some years ago. 

我: 

Haha…seventy years ago. 

婆: 

At the same place I lived at, there was a classmate around my age. The two of us would buy ingredients and cook.

我: 

Making zongzi and sugarcane water needs a lot of work…

婆: 

Sugarcane water needs a lot of work. Grandpa cuts the sugarcane. Then you have to shave the dead leaves around the sugarcane. Each stick is still dirty, so you have to peel the outer skin with a knife. After you peel it, you have to cut it into even smaller segments. Take it to the sink and get the brush to scrub off the powder; the sugarcane has a lot of powder, you see… Scrub it even more. Grandpa will cut it into a few inches long and take it to the kitchen upstairs. Then it’s boiled for 2-3 hours. Put some Chinese almonds, carrot and rock sugar. So don’t waste it. After I boil it, you have to drink it!

我: 

Of course I won’t waste it!

婆: 

Because our garden has a lot of sugarcane, we don’t want to waste it. 

媽: 

And he wants to ask, making zongzi needs so much work. Why do you have to make it? Why don’t you buy it?

婆: 

The ones you buy doesn’t have as many ingredients Dylan. Doesn’t have as many ingredients inside.

媽: 

Ingredients (in English).

婆: 

When you make zongzi, it needs a lot of work. But if I have your aunty, then it isn’t so much work. Buy and prepare everything – prepare the meat, cut it up and put it into the fridge first. Then when you need to wrap it, take everything out. But even after you wrap the zongzi, you still need to cook it for 4 hours. So when I make zongzi, I want everyone to eat some. There are more ingredients inside. The ones you buy outside doesn’t have many ingredients.

媽:

Yeah…the homemade stuff (in English).

媽: 

Then he wants to ask, normally on every Friday in the dining room we eat together. These days for the past few months, we can’t eat together. He wanted to ask what thoughts you have.

In the past was happier. On Fridays, you would all come back to eat. Grandpa remembers who came and who didn’t come. If you come back, grandpa will be more happy. Sometimes when it’s just us two eating, its simpler and quiet.

媽: 

Simple and quiet (in English).

Sometimes if there’s already a dish, I might as well not cook anymore. Because if I cook more, we can’t eat it all.  

媽: 

Cook very small amount (in English).

我: 

Of course. Two people would be what? Two dishes? Three dishes?

Two dishes at most! Sometimes 1 dish. If you all come back to eat, I want you to eat more. So I’ll cook more! And boil some nice soup for you to drink!

我: 

When we can all eat together, I will come earlier to help you cook.

(laughs) From when you were small till now, you were always so well-behaved.

我: 

For making food all these years and for your time today, thank you.

No need to say thanks. What’s most important is that you’re happy.

我: 

You too. 

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