Part of the reunion is a cooking competition. My team's theme, "Biowaste," inspired an MSDS-formatted menu with a Cajun theme.
- PRODUCT NAME: DISCARDED ORGANS AND STUFFED INTESTINES MIXED WITH GRAINS OF QUESTIONABLE CLEANLINESS (dirty rice)
- PRODUCT NAME: CHOLESTEROL-LADEN NIGHTSHADE SLICES COATED WITH WHIPPED EMBRYO (fried tomatoes; supposed to be fried green tomatoes, but the grocery store didn't have green ones so I simply chose the least-ripe red ones)
- PRODUCT NAME: FLACCID LEAVES SOAKED WITH POT LIQUOR (collard greens)
- PRODUCT NAME: RECENTLY EXHUMED LUMPY NEON THINGS PRE-MASTICATED TO DISGUISE IMPERFECTIONS (mashed sweet potatoes)
- PRODUCT NAME: BEHEADED CRUSTACEAN SLURRY WITH SAUCE PREPARED FROM DIGESTIVE TRACT RENDERINGS (shrimp gumbo; the roux took aeons to brown, and we made our own stock with the shells and scraps from cleaning the shrimp)
- PRODUCT NAME: NATURAL DISASTER GLUCOSE SPIKERS (mudslide cookies)
- PRODUCT NAME: DOES NOT CONTAIN AMPALAYA (green smoothie)
- PRODUCT NAME: INSOMNIA-INDUCING CAT FECES (civet coffee)
1ee, who trained an architect, fashioned our discarded materials into decorations for the dining room; shredded bags were placed inside empty plastic bottles and hung for a chandelier, tomato top "flowers" were speared onto a fallen tree branch as a centerpiece and decked with collard stems, and we fashioned plastic bags into hairnets. Jelina dutifully salted and pressed dozens of tomato slices, and I fried them, with Mia and Guama constantly ducking underneath my arm to toss more liver in a different pan. It was excellent, unchoreographed chaos. Happy Asian eating noises reigned across the table. We prepared far too much rice.
Tonight's dinner was even more spectacular, with Team Wet N' Wild crafting string-and-paper-cup bikinis for all participants on their "cruise ship," where salmon en papilotte and noodles in a little foil ship were served -- sans utensils, but plus finger bowl. The drinks were served in plastic cups, rims crusted with crushed Nerd candies; dessert was fruit suspended in gelatin, and old beach tunes played in the background. We chased it with a round of Liebrary (I won, but my 11 and 9 year old cousins are disturbingly good at writing fake first lines of romance novels). I relearned how to play Chinese jump-rope and taught Audrey the basics of Cat's Cradle.
What else do I want to remember from this reunion? Watching the 2005 Kiera Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice surrounded by my cousins laughing and calling out in protest at the particularly cute or witty or sappy scenes (plus almost every time Mrs. Bennet opens her mouth). My dad's incessant production of green smoothies from 8ee's blender. Walking down to the pet shop with Audrey and Kei and Jelina and Mia because the younger set wanted to see the puppies (which they did) and the older set wanted to watch the younger set be all happy about puppies (which they were). The massive waves crashing against the beach and the rich, dark sweat of the chunks of driftwood I climbed on; the vivid sandiness of the rocks, the charging foam, the streaks of black sand dappling the grey.
Running into cart after cart after family cart while grocery shopping; Uncle Don and I found luminary candles for St. Jude and Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Hispanic Foods section; 2ee purchased a crate of 60 eggs. Waking up in the top bunk of a 3-bunk room I share with my brother and 4 cousins, where there's barely room to step between the beds because we're crammed so tightly; coming up to breakfast to find people throwing down platters of fried steak, onions, eggs, potatoes, rice -- a mix of leftovers and new food, of make-your-own and cook-for-everybody, of old people and young people and clothes and pajamas and peeking over to make sure I'm hugging my mom because so many of her sisters look identical from behind or the side or quick glances from the front.
My cousins. Teasing each other and teaching each other and talking about later and thinking that wow, when Audrey's out of college I'll be pushing 40, and what will we be doing and we don't know and it doesn't matter and y'all are young. Family Jeopardy, where my generation answered questions about Lim family history; what did our parents want to be when they grew up? (My dad considered the priesthood at one point.) Who cried when the family pig was taken to market? (Edible pet!) What year did Guama come to the Philippines from China? What is her Chinese name? What did our great-grandfather eat for breakfast? (A Western-style continental breakfast plus two eggs -- I follow in a grand tradition!) What year did Guama and Guakong become grandparents? The year I was born.
Bedtimes are creeping later and later. Last night a bunch of us stayed up past 1am and sang when the night clicked over into Jelina's birthday. Now people are starting to slowly trickle into pajamas, and 5ee and 2ee are giving 3ee a backrub, and Jason is doing something at the stove, and the spicy hot cocoa I brought from K Dees Coffee down the street from Purdue has been steadily vanishing. The Mahjong table is still going strong, the construction paper cutouts of beachwear and Spongebob Squarepants characters that festooned tonight's dining room are still hanging from the balcony.
I have been doing a lot of thinking and a lot of sleeping and a lot of resting and very little work or computer use or reading since hitting Oregon on Thursday, and that's good. I think I'm actually having a vacation. And reflecting, and... having... space. And stopping.
I'll go downstairs now and put together tomorrow night's skit and see if my roommates are headed to sleep or playing ping pong or where Audrey just ran off to -- oh wait, she's back with Kei. And... why is there still food here? And... oh, Jason's cooking and Barby and Mia are at the Mahjong table, so I guess that means my roommates aren't yet sleeping unless Neil's down there. I... huh. World! Outside of work and computers and the internet and such! Hello! You... have puppies! I'm... hmm. I am getting used to being here.