Dad’s second wife, Tippy was a very intuitive woman. She was born and raised in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. She was a farmer’s daughter who helped tend her family’s rice paddy during the times she wasn’t attending school.
Her intuition was highly honed out of necessity to be aware of her surroundings and strangers. Her family’s farm is in Chiang Mai Province, and is within the infamous Golden Triangle. The CIA coined the term because it includes the border areas of Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers. It is infamous because it became the world’s largest opium producing area ever since the mid-20th century. Most of the world’s heroin was produced within the Golden Triangle until fairly recently when Afghanistan surpassed it.
Tippy was ambitious and eager to improve herself, so she studied very hard in school and graduated secondary school a grade early. She moved to Bangkok to attend university and found work in the restaurant industry. Her goal was to ultimately qualify for immigration to the United States. It was in Bangkok where she met and married her first husband. The couple and their son, David, eventually moved to her husband’s home in Omaha, Nebraska. Their marriage was rocky, but she stayed with the husband because she did not want to be deported.
Ultimately, the two divorced. Tippy and her son then moved to Wayne, Nebraska in order to live far away from Omaha. Her prior domestic situation being complicated, unpleasant, and dysfunctional.
Tippy supported her son and herself by working in food service and the restaurant industry where she could best utilize her flexible cooking talent. One of those jobs was at the Pizza Hut where she worked as assistant manager and waitress. This is where she met dad.
Tippy and dad dated for a few years, then the two eventually married. Tippy became integrated into our family. Her charm and her cooking skills won everyone, relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Tippy became my second mom. We made a point of developing and maintaining a happy relationship by learning about each others’ quirks and qualities.
She somehow knew when I was going through some rough times even when I tried to deny them. Oftentimes, she would prepare Pad Thai noodles as a way to get me to open up. Tippy’s Pad Thai surpassed any Pad Thai I’d ever eaten in restaurants. Hers was traditional, country style.
Tippy learned that I really love good homemade Japanese ramen (not the cheap over-processed thrift noodles packed with a small envelope of artificial flavoring). Tippy’s ramen tasted nearly as good as the ramen my former boyfriend, Takeo used to make.
For variety’s sake, Tippy sometimes prepared Thai boat noodles. This is a similar dish to Japanese ramen, but the broth contains different spices and has a thicker consistency. She also added more toasted tofu and a lot more bean sprouts. A large bowl of boat noodles contained plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates to satisfy any appetite. When Tippy ran low on Thai noodles, she substituted ramen noodles when preparing Pad Thai or Boat Noodle soup. One time, she had to substitute spaghetti because she had not been to the Asian grocery store for awhile. Tippy was disappointed with spaghetti in her Pad Thai so she never used it in in her Thai dishes again.
Tippy passed away several years ago. I still miss her friendship, her insightful intuition, and her noodle dishes. Yesterday I bought a couple of boxes of supermarket grade Pad Thai. Even though it’s a convenience food, it tastes OK. I’m sure Tippy would have found a way to tweak it to make it better. I’ll enjoy eating it for the sake of nostalgia.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes celebrity chef, Nobu Matsuhisa. “I eat soup noodles for comfort. In fact, noodles of any kind. It’s a food that is very easy to eat; it’s very soothing and comfortable, too. If I could choose any, I’d say buckwheat was my favourite: it has a very good flavour and is healthy, too.”