It is not unusual for me to get Chinese carry-out, especially for the midday meal on a Sunday: going to a Chinese restaurant for Sunday dinner – always in the middle of the day, as was de rigueur in the old days – became our family tradition, especially once Ma was getting older, and no longer had the energy to put together her classic Sunday meal of pot-roasted beef, with onions, potatoes, and carrots (broccoli or cauliflower on the side, and usually a gelatin salad). But even before that, we often went out for Chinese on special occasions.
My father was a Far Eastern specialist in his work for the Federal government, and frequently traveled to the nations of the Pacific Rim. On some of those trips (I later learned, although of course my mother knew it at the time) he carried with him that special little pill, that would prevent – permanently – America’s enemies from getting any information out of him, should he have been captured.
As a code-breaker and signal intelligence analyst – and in his later years with the NSA, a rather senior one – there were powers in the world at that time that would have loved to have gotten hold of my father! Consequently, we were not allowed to know anything of the details of the work he did; but oh, the travelogues he brought back, the photographs captured on 35mm slide film, the detailed accounts of the things he had done and seen when he was not working. And that included the food! My father loved to eat, a trait that seems to have been passed on to me. And he came to love Asian food.
In those days, Chinese was about all you could get, in the Continental U.S. (during our time in Hawaii, Japanese food was fairly common), so we ate a good bit of it. And if Pa said a particular Chinese restaurant had especially good food, it was from a basis of personal knowledge and experience! So as I consume my carry-out General Tso’s Chicken – which overtook Sweet-and-Sour Pork as I got older, and came to appreciate spicy over cloyingly sweet – on this Father’s Day, I think of Pa: his travels and travelogues, his skill as both a provider and a raconteur, and his dedication to preserving the secrets that would keep America safe. Continue reading “Fathers Day reflections: in food is remembrance…”