I have 3 cutting boards in my busy kitchen. One is for cutting vegetables, one is for cutting meat and one is for special occasions.
That one ‘special’ cutting board was handed down from my maternal grandmother to my mother, and now, to me. It may not seem significant to most people, but given the fact that my grandmother had nothing else of value to hand down, this was kind of it. And when my mom first gave it to me, I was only in my early 20s so I just saw it as another kitchen essential that I didn’t have to buy (given that I was a broke twenty something year old). But as I got older, I started to appreciate how special it was.
You can’t buy a cutting board like these anymore and I wish I knew where it came from. This round board is 10” in diameter and 1” thick of pure solid wood. It’s extremely heavy. What is so beautiful about it is all of its imperfections after generations of use. The underside is smooth and the topside is covered with grooves and cuts in all directions. The wear and tear shows how much it has been used, but also shows how beautiful and strong it is.
I am first generation Chinese American. My parents came here in the late 60s, looking for a better life for themselves and their family. To this very day, my mom still cooks every meal herself and my dad. The true art of cooking is always happening at my parent’s house. Everything is made from scratch all the time. I have so many memories of my mom spending hours in the kitchen, cooking all our meals. Eating out isn’t in the vocabulary. “It’s a waste of money and you can have a more nutritious meal by cooking it yourself” as my mom would always say.
So as a kid growing up surrounded by food conveniences in American life, you can imagine how I must have felt about cooking. Cooking to me was throwing a box of pasta in the water and chucking in the packaged cheese. When I look back on my early adulthood, I regret not cooking more. The long line of amazing cooks in my family had stopped with us, the first generation born kids.
As I started to understand and appreciate a good home cooked meal again as an adult, it only made sense for me to tap into that skill that has been lost in the family. And how apropos that I have my grandmother’s cutting board to inspire me all the time. I am dedicating my life to reclaim what is lost- the art of cooking with pure, whole and natural ingredients. Using my own two hands to cut, knead, chop and grate. My grandmother wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I’m just someone who likes cooking and for whom sharing food is a form of expression” – Maya Angelou