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Hi! Thank you for stopping by to watch me, Leah, cook kosher. I've been the owner operator of my boutique catering firm in Seattle, Leah's Catering, for the past 14 years.

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Five Part Chinese Sisters
Posted: June 28, 2011 By: Leah Jaffee

I had big plans today to upload tons of recipes and photos and write a blog. It's 11:43 pm and I'm just starting my work day. It's a hard day. Officially diagnosed with Alzheimer's earlier in the afternoon, my mother struggles to find the words and courage to tell me and my sister Leilani. My sister Terri has already called to break the results of the testing. She asks us to wait for mom to tell us before we say anything. The four of us sit with watering eyes and aching hearts. Sister Dawn calls while we're struggling with the situation. She's working and can't join us. Sister Jeanette is on the way back from Florida. We'll speak tomorrow.

Five Chinese Brothers Cover

"The Five Chinese Brothers" by Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Weise 1938

Last week, my sister Jeanette calls from Florida saying she is making "Mom's Potato Salad", a standard from the retail days. Wanting to verify the amount of sweet pickle juice I use, she says she went to the website and didn't find the recipe. Ah, yes, yet another I have to post.

Years ago I want to make the potato salad I grew up eating. Asking my mother for her recipe, she rattles off ingredients including mustard. Whoa, there wasn't any mustard. She thinks it might taste good so she decides to say it. I realize I can't trust mom to come up with "Mom's Potato Salad". I don't want a revisionist's recipe. I concoct a formula reminiscent of what mom always made for camping trips to the ocean. This is our family potato salad; don't mess with it! I hope to post it by the 4th of July.

A few months ago, I'm visiting with sister Dawn as she is cooking spaghetti for a large group. She has her standard issued-by-mom giant stainless steel pot full of sauce. I tell her that it looks just like my sauce. Dawn replies, "It's because we have the same mother." It seems strange. No one has ever exchanged recipes for spaghetti sauce. I haven't seen my mother make spaghetti sauce or potato salad since the 1960's. Like DNA, family recipes are transmitted household to household.

Reflecting on my mother's earlier words, her upcoming 'change of life' as she put it, I think about my sisters. On my father's side, we are part Chinese. I remember the favorite children's book in our family, "The Five Chinese Brothers". One brother is unjustly sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit. Before the death penalty is carried out, he requests an opportunity to say goodbye to his mother. A brother who can withstand the punishment (drowning, burning, etc.) is substituted and survives. Finally, after four attempts to carry out the sentence that is foiled by yet another brother, the decree is nullified and all live happily ever after with their mother. In my mind, we've always been 'The Five Part Chinese Sisters'.

Five Chinese Sisters Blog home

Jeanette, Leilani, Leah, Terri, and Dawn circa 1998

Ah, now it seems that my mother is sentenced to an uncertain but predictable journey. We sisters intuitively know that each of us will bring our love, time and energy to my mother's comfort. We divide up the doctor's appointments. My sister Dawn and her husband Jeff have spearheaded a remodel of my mother's kitchen with a four week turnaround. The washer and dryer will now be upstairs. I'm prepared to move my office work to a spare bedroom. We'll take turns spending the night. Five sisters, 7 nights. It seems feasible.

I recently read somewhere that a man continually visited his wife daily even though she had Alzheimer's. The nurse asked him why he continued to come so often since his wife didn't recognize him anymore. He responded that he still knew her.

It isn't the best of times but I trust that with the unique personalities of five daughters, and faith in Hashem, mom will live happily ever after. Today just feels like the first of many goodbyes. It's a hard day.

Five Chinese Brothers End



Posted 07-12-2011 by Charna
woops! somehow the order of my lines got changed around...line about the website comes last rather than in the middle.

Posted 07-12-2011 by Charna
Hi Leah,
Nice picture of you five sisters!
Sorry to hear about your Mom.
Your message is profound. It remindes me of when I found out about my own mother's illness.
Love your website and the step by step pictures.
I like the story about the husband who responded to why he visited his wife daily when she didn't recognize him, that "he still knew her."

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