By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
COVID-19 slammed us with two different Thanksgivings, one deadlier than the other. Even with the delta and other variants in 2021, I feel relieved after getting the vaccine. And lately, with the booster shot, I am even more hopeful about this year than the last. What a difference a year makes!
Last year’s Thanksgiving was lonely—just me and my old man dining together, we didn’t see anyone, and had zero activities during the four-day weekend. It was like a dark cloud with the daily rise of deaths, sickness, and shutdowns. We went to Seattle Center. It was closed and hardly anyone was there. Nevertheless, we felt grateful that our family survived the pandemic. And the Northwest Asian Weekly never missed an issue.
Despite the fact our country hasn’t completely eliminated or recovered from COVID, this year’s Thanksgiving was a breath of fresh air. I was wrong last December…I thought COVID would be gone by now. But no, we have COVID variants, each seemingly worse than the last. I thought we would be back to normal. Instead, we have the new normal. My office hasn’t reopened and none of my employees are dying to return, including me…
Thank God, social isolation is not part of the COVID requirement this year. We decided to get together with friends and family during Thanksgiving with caution. No big gatherings, only intimate affairs. How wonderful to be able to dine in restaurants with some slight adjustments, such as showing your vaccination card before you enter and with your mask on. If you forget to bring your mask, as I often do, don’t panic. The restaurant can always give you one. So we celebrated by eating out for three fabulous meals, twice in Chinatown for dinner and dim sum with a friend, and once in Bellevue.
We can travel, too. We can plan a little more with our lives, even though there are COVID restrictions. That’s still heaven compared to last year—literally, we locked ourselves inside our home most of the time.
The theme of Thanksgiving is to count your blessings. Being in the news business, I revel in hearing about sweet news. First, our freelance writer Vivian Nguyen gave birth to her baby girl three days after we visited her with gifts on Nov. 15. Perfect timing! Her due date was actually Thanksgiving Day. Apparently, babies don’t care about due dates. “Boom! Here I come.” The baby is the boss.
What better gift for Thanksgiving than your own baby! It’s been two years since we saw each other, and I felt so lucky that we were able to see Vivian right before she gave birth.
Thanksgiving is the best time to reconnect with old friends. My former high school classmate who lives in London texted me after she read my blog. We haven’t seen each other since 2015. Nor had we talked even once. I missed her voice. So I just picked up the phone and called without knowing if it was day or night in her city. I just wanted to connect with old friends. Although we only chatted for no more than 10 minutes, it delighted me to know that her 92-year-old mother, of Indian heritage, was visiting from Hong Kong and could beat her daughter in Chinese chess. I remember her mom vaguely, but fondly.
My husband and I have talked to all family members and some friends including those across the oceans. Their clear voices lit up my spirit as if they were right next to me. I am grateful for the brilliant invention of the telephone and cell phone, especially thrilled that these calls have been made easy, affordable, and even free if you have WhatsApp on your phone. How lonesome and awful it would be without being able to hear from your loved ones during important holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s!
Our writer Jason Cruz, who has been writing for us for close to two decades, came last week to claim his plaque, which he won on Oct. 8 from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association. An attorney, he had been too busy to get his award. To show our appreciation, we filled his bag with Asian treats and chocolate. It was fun to shop for the bag. For every award, he received $50 in cash. Do the math on how much the check was. Cruz received five awards from his sports column and news stories.
Kids at work
We observed the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention Center) guidelines about large gatherings. Instead of one big family reunion, we had our first dinner with our nephew’s family on Thanksgiving eve at the Ho Ho Restaurant and had lobster. Our nephew and his wife hadn’t dined out at a restaurant for a long time. They loved all the entrees at Ho Ho and even took leftovers home, which was not much by the time we finished dinner.
We haven’t seen our nephew’s kids for 22 months. They are now three and one and a half years old. How much they have grown, and how fun it was to see them so happy, curious, alive, and behave mischievously. Endearing as they were by giving hugs and kisses, and holding you when they wanted to for one second, then at another moment, they were cranky and crying as they were hungry, tired, and sleepy.
What was surprising was they felt so much at home visiting our office. I didn’t know one could play there. Our maze-like cubicles captured the kids’ imagination to hide and run around. They loved to play hide-and-seek with me. Of all the functions my office has played for receiving dignitaries and organizing many big fundraising events, this is perhaps the most astonishing, positive purpose of my office during COVID. I haven’t heard so much loud laughter in our office since my employees left to work from home last year.
How to cook yummy turkey
I never expected turkey and its dark meat to be so yummy. My daughter-in-law Tracy did it again. She found the secrets of cooking turkey like a James Beard-award winning chef.
“The technique is not to cook the whole turkey in the oven,” Tracy said. “The reason is, turkey breast takes much longer to cook. Instead of putting the whole turkey in the oven, chop the turkey into different parts and cook them when you want to eat.” That makes sense. You cook the whole thing and you end up with weeks of leftovers.
During Thanksgiving, she baked a turkey drumstick and leg for us. It was mouth-watering the day we ate it, and even the leftovers were more delicious the day after. The skin and meat were so juicy and sumptuous that I wouldn’t mind having turkey for dinner again soon. It changed my mind about the big bird. From now on, I would list turkey as a palatable dish if you cook it right.
Talking about birds, we had Peking duck with Tracy and my son John at Baron’s in Bellevue last Saturday. We were there for the first time. Friends have recommended the place, but it took us four years to go there since its opening. Why did it take us so long? Because it was more expensive at $78 than the Peking duck in Chinatown. One friend said, “It might be expensive, but you should go there at least once.” That sounds reasonable.
If you dine on Monday, the price of the duck is $49. But we were always busy on Monday as we are working on Asian Weekly to go to press on Wednesday. That’s part of being in the news business. It dictates my schedule.
The duck was yummy, too. Other dishes such as the sea bass, pea pod vine, and fried rice were equally well done. Right before we left, the waitress gave us a to-go box for duck bones. You see, Peking duck is about its crispy skin. When the duck is served, you have the skin and meat, but not the bones, which are fantastic to make broth. That’s nice to have especially for Tracy, a versatile chef who can create magic from even bones.
It was a very special Thanksgiving this year, which I won’t forget. It reminds me not to take anything for granted in life. Thank you, thank you, and thank you God, for all the blessings.
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org