Witness- The Cutting Board


This cutting board has been a Witness to the beginnings of the most wonderful cooking in the world.- My Grandmother’s.

My grandmother’s well into her eighties, yet every year when my mom and I go to stay with her over the summer, her first words are always, “I made some food, please eat!”

The journey to her home is the same every year. I’d board an airplane to Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, fighting nausea from the recycled air and the smell of airplane food. Finding the vomit bag has always been one of my first priorities, and I’m always marveling at the fact that no one else is madly scrambling to pull that thing out of the backseat pockets as soon as they find their seats. Then I’d stagger off the plane into the humid, mosquito-infested, colorful, and beautiful city of Guangzhou, elbowing my way through black-taxi drivers (never dark in skintone, but always shady and illegal AF) vying for my business to finally arrive at that one line of trustworthy blue and green taxis. And let me tell you, these blue and green taxi drivers drive more aggressively than New York cabbies during rush hour, but they won’t rip you off if you can speak Chinese- and they sure as hell won’t rob you at gunpoint.

I’ll pull up at the same gate every year, drag my luggage out of the trunk and smile at the security guard as I make my way to my Grandparents’ apartment. I’d always skeptically enter the building’s single elevator that has a reputation for trapping inside a certain high-profile scientist that was my grandparents’ neighbor. I’ve never been stuck inside that 110 degree-plus oven. Thank. Heavens.

And then my grandparents would be there in the doorway, all smiles and hugs.

I’d always tell my grandmother to go inside and sit down, and watch her slowly take one conscious step at a time to turn around in the cramped entryway. “Are you hungry, Lisa? I made some food!” I’d always say “yes, please!” After all:

one does not simply

For the next few weeks it always seems like her sole purpose in life is to make me chubby. Every year, she’d hunch over her well-loved cutting board, expertly chopping spring onions and bokchoy, dicing chicken, and chopping beef as water boiled beside her with some fresh noodles or wontons from the market across the road. I’ve never seen a cutting board as worn in as my Grandmother’s.

That board has been a helpless witness to my Grandmother’s failing health. Every year, her steps are slower. Every year, each stroke of her knife on that board is done more carefully, with squinty eyes and a shakier hand, but she insists that no one else knows how to make her braised pork. My grandfather’s tried… and gotten yelled out of the kitchen.

I sincerely hope that cutting board will witness a dozen more summers of my Grandmother’s cooking.

All the best,




6 thoughts on “Witness- The Cutting Board

  1. I love that story. As someone who loves to cook, I know exactly that close relationship and connection to a cutting board. Lovingly working on it and the magic it produces. I haven’t managed to keep one as long as your Grandmother though so maybe I need to learn to love a bit better. Hahah. I’m always so impressed with Chinese chefs and how they handle that trademark cleaver so differently from a French knife.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. CLEAVER. I can’t believe I haven’t been able to think of that word for years! When I’m speaking to Chinese people they assume that cooking knives always refer to the giant ones so I never had a name for it. I just called it a knife, but “cleaver” is perfect. Thanks for teaching me something new today. XD Maybe you can tell I don’t cook much… but I can eat for days, so I appreciate you culinary folks a lot. Who knows, maybe when you’re 80 your cutting board will look like that too.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hahah. Glad I could help! In the original series, Iron Chef Chinese always came into the stadium holding his cleaver. And I used to watch Martin Yan on PBS carve a whole chicken in like ten seconds with one.


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