Friday, September 19


"Grandma, why are't you eating with us?"
The first time I noticed Grandma eating different foods from the rest of the family was when I was about 6 years old. Grandma is a Taoist-Buddhist and every year, she'd fast for about two weeks.
"Wa ciak-chai," Grandma replied, meaning 'I'm vegetarian today' in the local Northern Hokkien dialect.

Grandma would have a vegetarian diet as a sign of her devotedness to the gods during the festival of the Nine Emperor Gods, and on Buddha's birthday. She has her own set of cooking utensils and crockery just for these occasions, which she keeps aside from the ones we use daily. She'd cook her own foods. She even washes her plates, glasses and other utensils using a different sponge. I used to wonder why she bothered to have a vegetarian diet when the rest of the family continues with their normal diet. When asked ( I was close to Grandma during my growing years) she'd say," I do it so that the family will have peace and happiness."

Every year without fail, Grandma would have her own way of fasting. She won't eat any form of meat from dawn till dusk. No milk. No egg. Just vegetables, soya, maize and rice products. During this period, she usually goes to the temples for prayers. Unlike Muslim's form of fasting, Grandma still drinks beverages and water whenever she's thirsty.

I was told that one a person starts to undergo an vegetarian fast as she does, one will have to continue to do it every year for the rest of one's life. It's like taking an oath. As a result, I have never bothered to try fasting Grandma' way. I was afraid I might forget about it one year and the gods would punish me for being forgetful, hehehee. Only a male cousin continues that tradition in my extended family, and according to Grandma, that's because he was 'adopted' by a temple god (he was a very sick baby and his parents asked the gods to spae his life; as gratitude he has to undergo a vegetarian diet each year).

"What's the time now?" Grandma would ask me in the evenings.
"About six."
"Hmm.. I'll eat that meat dumpling after seven," she'll say.
And I knew better than to ask her again.

Grandma's 86 this year, hunched but still mobile and still sharp in her thinking. She still cooks her own foods. And I know that she'll continue with her vegetarian fast for as long as she lives.
I called her up sometime this year and my ears got 'scorched', huhuhuu..
Long live Grandma, the matriach of my Chinese family.

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