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What do you do when your mother-in-law asks you to teach her how to make phở? You teach her.
Every May I head to New York for Book Expo America and my MIL comes to help out with the kids. It’s tough living so far away from our Louisiana family, but we’re lucky that she’s able to come to DC each spring. It’s become tradition. She takes care of Jaxson and picks up Sophia from the bus stop since my husband can’t take time off his new job. This gives the kids time to bond with their Grammy.
My MIL and I have a few days together before I jet off to NYC. She usually sits back and lets me run the household. Not because she doesn’t want to help, but mostly out of respect for me. She’s pretty laid back. Once I’m away on my trip, she does it all: cook, clean, and entertain the kids.
Every time my MIL comes, I’m reminded that our family’s meals can be a culture shock for her. Vietnamese meals are commonplace for our family, but are completely new for her. Watching how easily her grandkids assembling spring rolls or navigate a bowl of phở with their trainer chopsticks impresses my mother-in-law. The kids even let her borrow an extra pair of trainer chopsticks, since she’s still a beginner.
For this year’s visit, she asked about phở. Usually she walks to our local phở restaurant once or twice during her stay. Now she wanted to make it at home. I was happy to oblige. I pulled out my copy of Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors to show her the recipe. Then we headed to Hmart for ingredients (an adventure in itself).
I chuckled to myself as she quoted me Andrea’s recipe instructions during our shopping trip. She quoted the recipe as if it were the bible of Vietnamese cooking (it sorta is), but I make phở the way my mother taught me. Sorry Andrea. Mom knows best.
It turns out that my mother-in-law just wanted to eat phở and not actually learn how to make it. She made brief appearances in the kitchen to check on my progress, but was pretty hands off. I made her a big pot of broth with enough for leftovers after I left for New York.
Now I know. The next time my MIL wants me to teach her how to make a Vietnamese dish, it means she just wants to eat it.
I’m happy to make it for her.
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