The night before I flew back to Colorado, my family and I gathered around the dining table for a vast home-cooked meal. Unlike other feasts that were primarily created by my mom, this time my brother did most of the cooking, coming up with seven or eight dishes by himself over the course of an afternoon. On the table were fried pork chops; a stir-fry of shrimp, carrots, and celery; marinated burdock root; stewed lotus root; sauteed snow peas; braised tofu; and sauteed Taiwanese cabbage. We ate everything atop bowls of my dad's multigrain "rice," and it was a meal that tasted all the better from my older sibling's touch.
The next morning, I pulled out several batches of homemade bagels from the oven—I had kneaded and shaped the dough the night before, and gotten up early in order to boil, top, and bake them in time for breakfast with the fam. I'd also picked up some smoked fish at a tiny Russian grocery next to my bus stop the day before, and that on the bagels along with some veggie cream cheese and lettuce picked from the garden meant we were truly dining in style. There was only so much time to linger over the meal though—I had a plane to catch, my dad had an exercise class to lead in the park, and my brother had to go back to his apartment. In other words, it was time for my brother and I to remove our chef hats and return the kitchen to our folks.