I was away for a while because my paternal grandmother passed away on 2 February.
We were busy with the funeral a week before Chinese New Year.
Technically speaking, this year I am not really allowed to celebrate the Lunar New Year or give angpows. Of course the funeral director says that as a grand-daughter who has married, I am "following" my husband so I am allowed to celebrate.
I couldn't. So it was a low-key Lunar New Year for me. You know how it is when someone you love passes away. Who would be in the mood to celebrate?
My grandma was all of 95 and had been rather sickly, refusing to eat. My aunts were perplexed. They finally resorted to using a syringe to feed her porridge.
She had been bedridden for sometime now but we always thought, nah, Grandma will always be around. She couldn't recognize anyone - not her children or her grandchildren - but she was always that unifying force, someone who made us all return to the big old house again and again. Like a light, she was Grandma.
And Grandma decided that she had had enough of living.
On 2 February, she breathed her last in the wee hours of a Saturday morning at the Penang General Hospital.
I managed to see her the night before, but I could not hold back my tears. She had difficulty breathing. In fact she seemed like she was gasping for air even with the respirator switched on.
This was my Grandma, the one who instilled in me the love of soups.
She was the one who taught me how to love and enjoy soups.
She made soups the old-fashioned way, on a charcoal brazier, fanning charcoal so that the embers would gently simmer the soup.
I often have childhood memories of waking up to the fragrance of soups especially when we visited her each school holiday.
My Grandma cooked Toi Shan and Cantonese dishes with aplomb. She made the best salted steamed chicken but it was her soups which I find truly comforting.
When I was in university, I would often go back to the big old house on weekends and there'll always be soup in the kitchen. Even if there wasn't any more food or dishes on the dining table, I can be sure there'd be a pot of soup in the kitchen.
"Yum tong" was a catchword in our family.
Just lift the lid and inhale the soupy goodness.
A bowl of soup would make me a happy girl.
That is why this blog means a lot to me. It isn't just about soups as food, it is about soups as a memory and a way to remember family.
A bowl of Grandma's soup made life bearable, even if you were hungry for rice.
A bowl of soup spelled utter bliss and comfort.
A bowl of soup represented the love that us stoic Chinese do not know how to express. (We're getting better at this, this generation of ours.)
A bowl of soup at the end of a work day, no matter how tiring, would lift the spirits and satisfy the tummy.
That is why this is a tradition I continue till this day. That is the reason why Soup Queen blogs about soups all the time.
It's my heritage.