Thursday, May 8, 2008

Miss banh cuon.

It was three spring breaks ago, I left for the big Apple – New York City. My brother, a struggling graphic artist living on the outskirts from Manhatten on Staten Island, was to host me for five days. By that time, I’ve yearned to visit the metropolis for years. The evening before I fared adieu, my mother prepared my favorite Vietnamese dish – banh cuon, or spring rolls. It was the as delectable as the first I’ve ever had it – shrimp juicy, the romaine lettuce and cucumber crunched loud enough to override my parents bickering, fish sauce bringing me back to memories of the homeland, and vermicelli, not too dry or wet, just perfect.

Granted, my brother was a good host, serving me the usual American food he’d been accustomed to since moving out the year before. Mornings were spent reading the New York Times over toast, jam, bacon, and strawberries. The bustling food carts in downtown Manhatten, from Greek to Mexican, Italian to every-other-culture-I-haven’t-mentioned filled my stomach mid-day. Evening dinners were calm – a protein filet and vegetables or rice.

For my final day in the city, my brother decided to reminisce. He hadn’t prepared Vietnamese food for months, and to its very coincidence, made banh cuon. He had intended on doing so all week, waiting for the big day. It looked the same. I took the first bite. Upon the fifth chew, I was in remorse. It just wasn’t the same. The shrimp was flat, the lettuce and cucumber lackluster, the fish sauce just didn’t taste like fish, and the vermicelli too dry that I had to wet the palette upon embarrassment.

I printed my flight’s ticket as soon as I left the table.

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