Aiko Yamashiro

A Recipe for Tofu Bittermelon

Cut bittermelon in half, lengthwise. Scrape white pith and seeds out.
Cut into slices.
To remove bitterness, blanch in boiling water or soak in ice water for a little while.
Or keep the bitterness in if you like.
Fry the tofu (drained and mashed lightly). We are using tofu to try to make it more healthy.
Add ‘Ono Hawaiian Seasoning and dashi stock (or powder) if you like.
Add bittermelon towards the end. The more you cook it, the less bitter it will be.
Green onions, egg, shoyu, bonito flakes, all optional.
You have to make your own taste.

The less bitter it will be
because my father can see into the future, he tries his best to teach me something: to talk to my sister while doing dishes [in preparation for oceans and years and our lives between us]. to sing loudly and joyfully, off-key, who cares. to say things without thinking, and then regret them. that you can take over a country with powdered milk. that it’s better to drop dead than become a burden. that the best flavor comes when you burn shiitake mushrooms until they cry [this he learned from his mother] we change the subject to something funny that happened last week. for a moment, he is a boy perched on the front steps, laughing. “i know you are a good man,” but i don’t say it; these are not the kinds of things we say to each other. and then i am leaving. again, [when a father can only tell his daughter so much before she wants to climb into a container deep inside herself and close the door.]

The less bitter it will be
for my father who follows me around the kitchen giving me advice about the car—the oxygen intake sensor—making sure i am eating enough, that i know the kimchee is local and that the meat with the green beans is kielbasa, not spam. that he didn’t shower yet, in case i want to hold him at arm’s length. talking and talking. about work stories and going-back-to-school stories and being a (legal and illegal) race car driver a long time ago. about grandpa being one of 13 children. leaving the room and returning to ask again about the car. leaving the room and returning with half an orange, cut into thin sections. asking if I remember how to eat it like that, the way grandma would cut it?

i know he misses me but can’t say.
before i leave, i tell him to go to the doctor, please.

The less bitter it will be
after your lanky-bodied high school truancy, after the United States Air Force sent you to places you won’t tell me about, [after other things about us I can’t write here]

after dreaming of small things: hospital and mortgage debts paid, an extension on the house. after more dreams waking you at 4am: of men dying, crying, or begging.

as the bamboo in the yard begins to shut out the light, as the kitchen roof caves after the heavy storm, after going Longs, Foodland, bank, gas, Longs, Foodland, bank, gas, after saying “I’m too busy” to go to the family New Year’s day party and then sitting alone in front of the TV all night,

after beer #9 or #10 or #11, after cigarette #13. after learning your body can no longer metabolize sweetness, that you may eventually go blind, or lose a foot, as this disease has already slipped into his her your our blood this is when, maybe, the ritual begins
that pierces the soft belly of the word “genealogy,” when you repeat to me
“When I go, I want to go quick, like my father did.”

Family Recipe / Tree / Shortcuts

1 Easy

easy bake oven little girl
all you three kids
sitting in a row
waiting for the light bulb to cook your little cake
that’s why i always like to hear your stories
and i always imagine you little girl
in them
and it makes me smile little girl
and sometimes it makes me cry

2 Map

3 Legend

“remembered her”

He remembered she as the woman he first met: sophisticated and clean.
She remembered Guam, but pretended to forget his name.
Her parents chose not to remember her, an ocean away from Honolulu.
Her mother remembered all herweakness.
She remembered -self, when she discovered she was pregnant.
He remembered when she called him every humid night, late, bare-footed.
Her sister remembered when she asked him out of nowhere to bring her home.
His mother remembered to warn him away from an older woman, with a daughter.

Her daughter remembered everything she said

detail of Diasporic Waters - Joy Enomoto - 2014
Baninnur: A Basket of Food

Aiko Yamashiro was raised in the powerful embrace of the Ko‘olau mountains in Kāne‘ohe, O‘ahu. Her ancestors came to Hawai‘i from Japan, Okinawa, and Guåhan. She is currently blessed to be a graduate student and teacher in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Department of English. Her interests include decolonial and anticolonial literature of Hawai‘i and the Pacific. With Noelani Goodyear-Ka‘ōpua, she recently co-edited The Value of Hawai‘i 2: Ancestral Roots, Oceanic Visions (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014). The poems here explore food as genealogical trace as we find our ways home.