Issue 00

On Friendships and After-School Snacking

Written by Adrian J.S. Hale

First of all, I would like to put it right on the table that I am no expert at Vietnamese cuisine. Despite a million daydreams, I have never traveled to Hanoi and stood over a steaming bowl of pho with a dozen bikes swerving around me as I stuff my face at a street market. As much as I like the romantic image, I don’t have that kind of expertise, that kind of taste memory.

What I do have is my high-school best friend.

And having a best friend comes with all kinds of other memories, even if they are steeped in the deep, inner world of young adult drama. Van and I met in 9th grade, and it didn’t seem likely, at first, that we would be close friends. I was sullen and wore black. She was outgoing and got up on tables in French class to recite limericks. When we did become friends, I hardly ever thought about the fact that she is Vietnamese, but I’ve thought of it a lot since.

The thing is, when you fall into friendship, you hardly realize you’re taking on aspects of your friend’s culture. You’re just liking the conversation, you go see a movie, meet for coffee. Suddenly, you know for sure you have each other’s back. So you go on a road trip, start trading Kurt Vonnegut books, making dinner for all your mohawked friends. It doesn’t register that for the rest of your life, when you smell the starchy fragrance of rice cooking, you’ll think of sitting in your friend’s house after school with her grandmother hunched over an alter, spitting tobacco into a spittoon. You can’t comprehend that you’ll pick up chopsticks often and be grateful for that time that Van was still getting ready and her father brought you to the table for a lesson on how to hold them. And you especially aren’t aware that Cha Gio, an eggroll-like appetizer, will forever top your list of comfort food. Van’s mother made these often and left big plates in her small, tidy kitchen. We’d come home late at night and somehow the world of Rusty’s-left-me-for-his-ex-girlfriend and should-we-get-the-hell-out-of-Florida-for-spring-break? and I’m-getting-a-C-in-Algebra would give way to the feeling of being HOME, because home meant there was a plate of something made just for you, and back then ‘you’ was a collective term.

In eating from those plates of Cha Gio, I also got to discover something new. So these rolls are the sum of what it means to make a friend in the tumultuous social world of school, which is exactly what I woke up thinking about on A’s first day of kindergarten. She was a little overwhelmed by the whole institution. She was wondering how she’d ever make friends. If people would like her. These conversations dredge up some pretty strange things in my own psyche, but as I reassured her that she WILL make friends and it’s normal to feel nervous and she is amazing just being her and all the words you grasp around for when trying to saddle life into something understandable for a 5-year-old, I suddenly thought of Van and the way we would sit together eating Cha Gio together after school. In a moment of clarity, I was okay with A’s struggle because I knew that there would be people in the world for her. I knew someday she would meet her Van.

That afternoon, I grabbed a Vietnamese cookbook and tried my hand at making Cha Gio. I needed to do it to remind myself of all the unknowns that turn out good; to remind myself that someday, somewhere A will see something in a girl standing on a table in French class, which might turn out to be a friendship that will take her all the way to the day when she is sending her own daughter off to school.

I also made these because Van is back in my life. She never really left, but you know– friendships ebb and flow. We live closer than we have in years and despite time, we still seem to have a lot in common. So I also made Cha Gio as a huge thank you thrown into the universe for my friendship with Van. I’m happy she’s back. I’m happy she’s here. This is my edible version of standing on a table and reciting limericks back.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:6]

Linda

Yum! Sweet story too.

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
Jenny DeWitt

Adrian, I think if I were to write an entry about friendship snacking it’d have to be cream horns with Kim Fox. I’ve been looking for a recipe that appeals to my nostalgic senses but haven’t found one yet. (The easy way would be to go to Publix, because they still make them. It’ll be a dark day when they stop.) Thanks for this jaunt down memory lane! xo

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
Adrian

Cream horns…now I’m on the case. Can you describe them briefly? xoxo

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
Quan

wow… made me think of all the great people that I’ve meet through the years and how much I miss my aunt’s cha gio. yes, men can have feelings too… thanks for sharing and crossing my path of life. Cheers to all of your future ventures. Q

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
Adrian

I think there’s a whole story in our prom date and the trip to Vinh’s, Quan! That was the best prom date restaurant ever. Great to see you here. xoxo

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
Lilian

Lovely memories, meaningful food. Thanks for sharing!

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
Kate

This is beautiful! Made me cry.

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
Kathleen Richardson

One of my very best friends and I used to share an apartment and our favorite meal was corned beef with horseradish sauce. I can remember we’d cook a small one, then spend the afternoon peeling off strips of beef and dipping them in the sauce. Now when she and I meet 2-3 times a year, we try out different restaurants and have found our new favorite is Indian. Thanks for sharing your memories and bringing back mine.

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
Van Ly

Adrian I am honored by these words. I was just in Orlando this last week and the night before I flew back to Seattle we had a big family gathering (with ALOT of my mom’s home cooking)and I read it to my parents They were deeply touched and my dad said to tell you thank you. He said “I love Adrian, she is so sweet.Where is she?” WE ALL wish you could have been there!

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
Kristina

Beautiful! Happy to know both you ladies!

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
 
Dinner & Movie– True Romance | Communal Table

[…] « Previous post in this category […]

Brenda

Love this post Adrian, the recipe, the words, all of it. Btw, in the market for a great Vietnamese cookbook — would you recommend ‘Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table’?

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
Adrian

Thanks, Brenda. That means a lot to me. I don’t have much experience with Vietnamese cookbooks, but I’ve used this one a few times. It’s clear and the recipes work, plus it usually has a little background, which I like. You can borrow it and see what you think.

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Reply Required
 
prom venue

prom venue…

[…]On Friendships and After-School Snacking | Communal Table[…]…

 
His Own Kid | Communal Table

[…] summer I graduated from high school, I left home with Van. We climbed into my gold Jeep the day after commencement and headed west. My dad was reluctant, […]

 
Spaghetti Vigil - Communal Table

[…] reminded of a day back in high school when I had a dinner party—maybe even my first dinner party. Van and I made a huge spread, and everything was homemade—everything from her ramen and fried chicken […]

 

Please fill out the fields, below. Comments may be moderated. Required fields are marked *.

Valid Name Required
Valid Email Required
Comment Required