|Chinese Cucumber Side|
Back in the day, and I mean really way, way back - my Uncle Clarence would make Chinese food at Aunt Maddy’s camp when he was “up” in Vermont. It became tradition.
Other than that one time when my second cousin’s shellfish allergy made things ‘interesting’ (or dire, depending on perspective) – the occasion was looked forward to by all of us Vermonty Anglos.
My favorite dish was a simple one of vinegary cucumbers.
But, perhaps – I should back this story up.
My mom’s older brother, Clarence, was something else. And I mean that with a proud, familial fierceness – he was totally himself, instead of what others expected him to be.
He was (to my knowledge) the first in the family to go to college. And I might be just remembering it that way – but when you are 8 years old, and suddenly 50, things go fuzzy.
Who else hailing from a subsistence farm on Mill Pond Road in Colchester would become an interpreter for the US military? My Uncle!
Not for French or Spanish culture, but for the Chinese language!
Later on, he was a museum curator on the West Coast and once retired, became a freelance authenticator of museum artifacts worldwide.
I remember his stories about driving through Burlington in a fancy convertible and getting “hit on” by young femmes; buying wines at vineyards that have only bin numbers, visiting a native American reservation and being recognized as “brother” - assembling an earthquake kit, a home break-in (they stole wine, the fiends!) and experiencing severe water rationing in San Francisco.
I spent some summers in Bakersfield with his children, Lin and Lea. I could write volumes on those adventures…
This past weekend, when Lin and his wife Sarah visited, I made a Chinese-style menu to honor his dad’s memory.
Though, I don’t think I nailed the dumpling dipping sauce – because another family tradition is leaving ingredients out of shared recipes. (Which I personally don’t adhere to.)
While many celebrated the Fourth of July with chicken, burgers and dogs, we ate a variety of grilled meat on sticks, marinated shrimps, potsticker dumplings, and this cucumber dish.
All because of you, Clarence Shangraw. Thank you, sir.
Uncle Clarence’s Cucumbers
1 Cucumber, skin on, sliced thin
1/4 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
1 TB Maple Syrup
Optional garnish: sesame seeds
Assemble all before service or a day ahead.
Taste and adjust the vinegar – it should be refreshingly tart.