Grandma and Mushroom Soup
There are certain dishes that bring back a flood of memories which remind me of a person, a place or a situation. Memories of my grandmother, who passed away this Tuesday, are connected to a mushroom soup which she once cooked for me.
One thing I vividly remember about my grandma was her smile. As time passed, she looked more and more gorgeous as she kept flashing those teeth even when there were none left. The older she got, the more adorable she looked in those grins.
The last time I saw her was several years ago when I visited her home in Aranyaprathet, a Thai province close to the Cambodian border.
My grandma didn't want to live with us in Bangkok. She told my mom she wouldn't be comfortable in the city. She wanted to be in her own environment, somewhere close to nature. Her decision to live alone was very telling of her independence and strength.
On my last visit, we did Baci. Baci or บายศรี is an old tradition usually done by a senior person to wish the younger ones an auspicious life. The tradition is done through an act of tying a white string on one's wrist.
As my grandma gently knotted those strings around my right wrist, I noticed her rough and wrinkled hands. The hands that raised and fed four children on her own. Mom always told us that grandma was a strong woman. I have no doubt. My mom is the living proof of her strength...like mother, like daughter they say.
That early afternoon after Baci, we walked around her land and picked up wild mushrooms for lunch. Foraging was my grandmother's way of life. She lived sustainably. By that, I mean she lived within her means, in a minimalistic way that sustained her being.
In her kitchen, there was no oven or fancy equipment, just pots and pans and a charcoal grill. I still remember the image of her small, ageing body moving around the kitchen as she cooked the mushroom soup for us.
That was the last meal I ate with her.
Today, I tried to recreate the soup from memory. The same way my brother tried to capture the pictures of grandma's house after her passing (see below). Through his use of lighting, I think he captured her spirit in those empty spaces very well. I can imagine her cooking in that old traditional kitchen, which I absolutely adore, and I feel her presence when I look at these beautiful pictures.
I guess these words, pictures and my attempt at her soup recipe are our own small ways to celebrates her life and our love for her.
My interpretation of grandma's mushroom soup
1 white onion
1 lemongrass stal
1 celery stalk
2 sprigs of rosemary
A thumb sized piece of ginger, cut thinly
A handful of pancetta cubes
3 cloves of garlic
5-6s stalks of spring onion
A handful of Shitake mushroom
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of dry white wines
3 tablespoons of butter
2 cloves of garlic
1 white onion, cut in small cube
A handful of oyster mushroom
A handful of white Shimeji
A handful of black Shimeji
A handful of Eryngi mushroom
2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce with mushroom
Salt & Peper
Put the spring onion and ginger in the chicken cavity
Put the chicken in a large pot and add water to cover the bird.
Add carrot, onion, lemongrass, pancetta, garlic in the water
Boil and bring to simmer for an hour
Take out the chicken (save the chicken for another meal) and vegetable, leaving the broth and pancetta for mushroom soup
Boil Shitake mushroom with water and white wine for 15 minutes. Safe this water for later.
Sweat garlic and onion in butter in a large pot
Add all the mushrooms and stir for 5 minutes
Add Shitake and the remainder of its water into the pot
Add the chicken broth from above to the pot to your liking
Bring to a boil. Then simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Add the white mushroom sauce, salt and pepper to taste