Shooting my sister-in-law a teasing smile, I goaded: “Just once?”
“Yeah,” my nephew said sadly. “Usually we get leftover rice that's kinda yellow and hard.”
My sister-in-law let out a horrified giggle and my mother's lips thinned.
Before my mother could deliver a lecture on how her grandchildren should have fresh-cooked rice daily, I jumped in. “So, ah,” I asked my nephew, “what made the rice so perfect?”
My nephew, dreamy eyed, breathed, “Well, when you lifted the lid on the cooker, the steam escaped in this puff of cloud, and under the steam, the rice was like this. Like a rainbow.” He held his hands in the air, palms down, in the shape of an upturned cup. “And every piece was white and perfect, not goopy or bullety.”
I nodded, caught by his reverential description, knowing just what he was talking about.
“That's right,” my mother said, smiling at him. “Must be you know what is good rice because you're Korean, right?”
Later that night, as the family settled around the table for what would turn out to be a three-hour meal, my mother served that perfect rice. As we talked, trading stories about the past and present, my mother kept jumping up to scoop more rice onto our plates. “Just chokum more,” she urged, ladle loaded and poised above our heads. “Just have a little more to keep me company.”
And so my siblings and I and our spouses and children each held our plates up to receive second and third helpings, feasting on remembrances and rice.