Soul Food

Jennifer Boonlorn

Posted on September 28 2013

My father was an epic chef - the type who could take a few ingredients from the refrigerator and whip them into an entire feast in a matter of minutes. My grandmother was the personal chef to the queen of Thailand and traveled with the royal family wherever they went -- so the cooking-gene came streaming through my father naturally.  He could repeat the same dish with exact precision a hundred different times without every glancing at a recipe and rarely did he ever pick up a cookbook.

Growing up my parents were constantly hosting dinner parties, summer bbqs, and New Year's Day celebrations -- potential architectural clients, colleagues, family friends -- they all came for Paisan Boonlorn's massive mounds of Pad Thai, fried rice, egg rolls, chicken wings, Thai dumplings and super spicy curry. My father would begin prepping the night before the party, and on the day of the party, Jaime and I would spend all day rolling egg rolls, frying won tons and assisting my father as he chopped, sauteed and created meals that were legendary.

Whenever my father cooked the entire culdesac our house resided in smelled of simmering garlic, cilantro and Thai fish sauces. My father never wrote down any of his recipes, and other than Jaime and I, he didn't like anyone in the kitchen watching him cook -- "Too many cooks in the kitchen!!!" he would proclaim in his heavy Thai accent.

I long for those recipes -- the chicken wings that were marinated overnight in whiskey, cilantro, scallions, & multiple Thai fish sauces and then dotted with large pats of butter before baking, was a smell that is forever burned into my memory.  I have attempted trying to recreate some of the dishes, but they are never exact.

What I long for more is my parent's presence at those dinner parties.  At my parent's funeral over 250 people showed up -- it was completely overwhelming and I remember crawling into the bathroom at the reception to escape it all. But what I do remember from greeting and letting over 250 people pay their condolences to me, is how many people my father touched with his cooking and those dinner parties. Everyone of the well-wishers made mention of my father's cooking, the vats of Thai soup he brought over when they were sick, and the special memories they have from sitting around the long dining room table he designed and built.

My sister Jaime posted this video the other day -- it is set in Thailand no less! And it is about a Thai soup master who touches people with his kindness and gracious giving. Tears streamed down my face -- this video was my father on so many levels, and it got me thinking about the art of dinner parties and the impact we have on people's lives.

My father left an impression on people through his cooking. I love to cook and bake for others, and I had Bob specifically design my home to be able to do all these activities. One day I would love to host a dinner party where the Swedish Dj, Avicii, the author and PHD scholar, Brene' Brown, and the Oscar de la Renta Public Relations girl Erica Bearman were all present. It would be the ultimate dinner party for me -- three famous people I would be THRILLED to meet and soak up for the night. But all famous-fantasies aside, I want to inspire people like my father did. He did it through his phenomenal cooking, I want to do it through creating, designing and getting people to ask themselves the questions "What makes my soul come alive and can I be authentic to that journey!? That will be my soul food to the world.

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