Category: - AM Musings
 
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Simple Perfection
The art of apple pie has been a family tradition as long as I can remember. My Dad made them. My Mom made them. I tried my hand at it, but Chris has truly perfected it.

This one was truly great. The crust buttery, flaky, with no trace of undercooked and doughy bottom crust. The apple filling tart and sweet and cooked enough to have some bite, texture and keep its shape. The combination and contrast wonderful. Thank you.
 
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SF Chinatown's Great Star Theater
 Back in the day, San Francisco Chinatown boasted at least 5 movie theaters.  My favorite was the Great Star Theater on Jackson between Kearney and Grant Avenue and across the street from the old Sai Yuen Restaurant where my grandfather was an owner.  It was at the Great Star Theater that I saw all the great Shaw Brothers Martial Arts films during the 1970's.

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Sadly they are all gone.  The 4 Star Theater on outer Clement is about the only place to see the latest martial art films from Asia.  The theater itself is pretty plain and doesn't have the grandeur of the Castro.  It doesn't matter.  Kudos to the owner for keeping this tradition alive.
 
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The flash of the fire and the creation of Wok Hay
Some of my earliest childhood memories come from the House of Chung restaurant in Reedley, CA where I watched the chefs shaking the heavy woks and tossing the ingredients, cooking them quickly.  The oils in the wok would sometimes vaporize and with the tossing, the oils would ignite in a dazzling display.  Wok cooking is hard work.  Any chef that has spent years behind a Chinese stove probably has burn scars on their arms to show for it.

That said, I grew up listening to elders wax longingly about the nature of wok hay an how this nuance to the dish is only possible with intense heat cooking in a wok and with an experienced cook who knows how to time the addition of ingredients and the length of cooking.  There is little margin for error and when done right, it is incredible.  The most humble of ingredients can be wonderful.

San Francisco native, Grace Young has written extensively on this subject and published several cookbooks.  
 
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Reedley Peaches at Bi-Rite Market
Bi-Rite Market on 18th Street carries organic peaches from Reedley - my hometown.  I don't miss the heat of the San Joaquin Valley summers, but I do miss the tree ripened fruit hanging in our backyard garden, the fresh corn and the vine ripened tomatoes that my parents grew.  Every summer my parents would can vine ripened tomatoes and bring them up to San Francisco for us to enjoy.  They formed the basis of simple pasta sauces throughout the winter and needed no more than a little olive oil and herbs as they were so sweet and flavorful. 

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The Reedley garden - now gone
The garden is gone now, supplanted by a new home, just the memories triggered by visits to the local farmer's market and markets like Bi-Rite linger.  I smell the fruit and compare them to my memories of the ones sitting on the trees and vines in the 100 degree heat.  In Reedley you can still drive down a country road to an unattended fruit stand, bag your own fruit, and leave money in a slotted box.  

Impossible to find the same fruit here, but I'll take the best I can find - which is pretty darn good!  We're entering the peak of the harvest season for peaches and tomatoes.  Enjoy our bounty while you can. 

 
My Dad Edward Hong Mock
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Mock Yuke My Grandfather 1863 - 1939
Today is Ching Ming, the day when the Chinese sweep the graves of their ancestors and make offerings of food.   The San Francisco Chinese Family Associations still honor this tradition and bring crispy Shew Yuk (roast pork) for distribution to its members at  the local Chinese cemetery.    We called it Chinese Memorial Day.

In the late forties or early fifties, my father,  in memory of his father Mock Yuke, performed this ritual.  At the gravesite, he burned incense and made offerings of chicken and poured wine on the ground.  My grandfather was then buried at the sad and neglected Chinese cemetery in Fresno, CA.  

In the 1950's, the local Fresno Chinese community was a dwindling group.  US immigration laws has separated the families of the Chinese American diaspora by time and distance.     Forgotten bachelor men whose elusive dream of returning to China rich were buried in a barren cemetery  of only dirt and weeds without families to honor them.  Some memorial plaques were only shards of wood, the Chinese writing long faded.  Later my grandfather was moved to my hometown cemetery in Reedley, CA.  My father Edward Mock is now buried next to him in Reedley as well as my Uncle James Mock.  Once an abstract occasion honoring unknown ancestors, its much more meaningful now.  So long Dad, its been good to know you.  From your son, Larry.

April 18, 2011 Update:  Last night Mom was in a reminiscing mood.  She doesn't talk alot about my Dad, but last night she said it simply, "He was a good man." I couldn't agree more.