T H U
and her family
6 FEBRUARY 2016
V I E T N A M
Being greeted by nothing more beautiful than Thu in national costume an early February morning at Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, is difficult to do. There are coincidences that often determines how happy you will be. That I met Thu lakeside Hoam Kiem one January Sunday has given me experiences I'll never forget. I am lucky who can call Thu and her family my very good friends!
We took the taxi from Hanoi and the 50 kilometers to Thu´s village. The taxi stopped in the nearest larger village, Soc Son, and there was obviously a vibrant life of selling and purchasing at this early hour.
From Soc Son, we walked the two kilometers to Dong Cham, Thu's village.
A lovely spring morning.
It hung corn drying everywhere, both in trees and on their own "stand". The dried corn used for animal feed.
I felt welcome as soon as I set foot inside the gate to this incredibly hospitable family. Where everyone help prepare festive food for the Vietnamese New Year, Tet. I am also very proud to be the first foreigner who visits this family. A vote of confidence I will live up to the best I can
TET can be compared to our Christmas celebration. A huge party in Vietnam with food they eat only during this holiday season. As this dish, "Chung" in Vietnamese, Chung cake in English.
Green leaves, which are grown only for this purpose, filled with rice, beans and pork.
Then be wrapped this way.
Before it all be cooked for up to 12 hours.
Pig from their own farm, and Thuc sister, Uyen, has the job of washing and make the head that day.
Uyen is otherwise very good to cook. This master chef stood for just about everything we ate when I was there. And the teacher in culinary art is of course her mother.
The goal of the family is to be self-sufficient in vegetables year round. And that they manage, told Thu. Here we are in "cabbage department". Broccoli and plain salad, I found also among all the unknown.
Vegetable garden with banana trees in the lower left corner.
There are mostly talking about fresh food. Both from the vegetable garden and chicken run. On this point, today's "chicken" took his very last breath before it turns into delicious food at the lunch table.
Here is the death blow given, and the blood drained in a small bowl. I am of the opinion that today's youth (and many adults) should see this so that they know what happens before they eat the meat.
And Thu had to take her part of the job. First, she scald the chicken, before her expert hands take all feathers.
At last everything insides taken out, and what could be used they put in the pot along with the meat.
And blades used for such work is big and heavy. I actually thought the possibility of Thu could cut herself, but she was incredibly accurate when she would divide the bone-filled pieces of meat.
Spring rolls belong in a kitchen in this part of the world. And I must say that the Vietnamese are in a class by itself. Larger and more succulent than they usually get in Thailand.
Fried spring rolls
The kitchen can be found in a separate house, with gas griddles (pictured above) and cooking over an open fire as here.
The pigs will also have their food.
Grandma has been an anchor in the family for 84 years! She is relieved of most, but has her tasks, such as drying fruit in the hot sun.
In not too old days you had to color your teeth black if you want to "marry decent man". 60 years ago, 80% of Vietnamese farmers had black teeth! "When you color your teeth black, will your beauty make me senseless of love", it was said. Two weeks painstaking process both night and day when you were 14 years of age, with the help of rice liquor, insects and herbs, should make you attractive on the marriage front. And as one can see from the picture, staining lasts a lifetime. In today's Vietnam is not so.
Thu´s little brother is 11 years and this day he had a visit from his cousin. Here they sit under the rack for drying corn and munching on something good.
This puppy got a lot of attention. But when it tried to steal food the punishment was to be tied up a good distance beyond the reach of most.
And with this way of making all meals, they have to train dogs that this is not their table.
The kitchen is behind the open door to the right in the picture, and all the food was brought out here and divided into serving pieces, before being carried into the main house. Washing machine is also there, under cover, and right behind Uyen you see one of the containers filled with rice.
I can not imagine that they have so many different dishes a regular day, but in addition to that I was a guest on this day, it is also only two days left to Tet. 8 February 2016 is the beginning of the "Year Of The Monkey.
I could sit at the table in the background if I want, but of course I would be among the family, although it is struggling an old body. As one can see, I'm not in the opportunity to take the same position as the others.
A fabulous meal, here we see the two smallest has already started, while the grandmother, Thu and her mother politely waiting for the guest to be done with pictures. And of course everything is eaten with sticks.
Every day, cow and calf taken out of the barn and into a field some hundred meters away to supplement the food budget. And of course give the animals some walking exercise.
It is important to have protection against hazardous radiation, and this hat is the perfect sunscreen. After lunch I started thinking that I should not charge the family with my presence much further and hinted to Thu about it, but it was out of the question to go before dinner was served. I was then not at all to bother! The result was that I left the Hanoi at 08:00 in the morning and came back at 2100 in the evening!
The ladies sitting by the roadside while cows graze comfortable in the background. This day Thu's mother met her sister out here. Behind the ladies seeing a plowed rice field. In the cold climate around Hanoi they do not plant the rice before the beginning of March.
In this farm they made the meatloaf. Metal cylinders is covered with green leaves, otherwise the same as that used to Chung cake, before being filled with pork stuffing. The lady in the picture is the commander of this, and production takes place in her home. She buys pork, and make this mince to fill the cylinders.
They work all day to make enough for the coming holidays.
For New Year's party they make 1,000 kg, meatloaf, otherwise I understood that week's production was around half, 500 kg. In the photo you see Thu's uncle to the right. He works in this production hall, and it is long days just before Tet holiday.
But it's time for a smoke and a cup of green tea between battles. And bamboo pipes, as there are many in Vietnam, was frequently used.
All in the right age have a motorbike. Thu is no exception, and drove me around the village to show me a lot of interesting places.
This picture shows the part of the kitchen that uses gas as an energy source, a turn in the opposite direction gets the picture below.
The other half of the kitchen use open fire. As one can see, the family's kitchen head started to withdraw Chung Cake from pan.
After many hours of cooking, party food is finished.
Thu can not create Chung Cake yet, but here she learns to break it in the traditional way.
Bamboo that was used to bind the cakes together, split up and placed in such a pattern on top of the finished cooked product that division provides 8 triangles.
It is important to start with correct pieces of rope, but with mother as a very knowledgeable supervisor, Thu managed it in the end
And here is the dinner served! A great meal and an experience I never dreamed that I could be a part of. You will find the "Chung Cake" and can see the triangles Thu managed to split it in. The observant reader will see that it has come two new people in this photo. Alongside grandmother sitting Thu's very beloved father, who works hard for his four children to get the education they have the capacity for. The two oldest have completed their university exams, Thu is underway and little brother will also get the chance when the time comes. Beside me sits Dong Thu's second oldest sister. She works for Samsung in Vietnam, and staying at home. Dong spoke in general a very good English!
A wonderful family gathered around the dinner always this way. Thu and Uyen sharing accommodation in Hanoi, but they are home every weekend, and of course during the New Year celebrations. To take part in a day in their lives, was for me a major highlight, which I will never forget. They also said that I was welcome to them when it had to be, and the way they say such things in fact do that I believe them! And I'm pretty sure this will not be my last visit to this family!
Thanks to this great 20-year-old, I experienced what many not even dream about; to be invited to a traditional family in the countryside of Vietnam to take part in a day in their lives. From being the one who was shy in the background at Hoan Kiem in Hanoi to listen to people's questions and my answers, in English, she has become one of my very best friends! A girl I missing adjectives to describe, I am exceptionally proud to call her my friend!