Of all the places I've been this year - of all the crazy three-star food I've served up - yesterday was one of the services that I was most grateful to be a part of - Chung Yeung. It's one of the two ancestor worship days of the year. I know it conjures up imagery of voodoo and hocus-pocus and the spirit world but actually it's very normal - and involves none of the dark arts - unfortunately. Families go together to clean off the family graves, offer up flowers and traditionally food and drink but that's not done so much anymore - usually just a couple of oranges and maybe a can of Coke. But some hardcore purists still do leave elaborate meals - whole roasted pigs, a big bottle of the dearly departed's favourite single malt Scotch whisky, etc. I was just so thankful to be able to bow to my grandparents - and especially my favourite uncle. He was my mom's younger brother and he owned the restaurant that I worked in the most as a kid. One family story has it that back in the day he was going to be groomed as the Chinese Elvis. If you saw pictures of him back then, you'd understand. Not that I ever heard him sing or dance, but he was tall, handsome, and charismatic. I don't think that I ever learned that much about cooking from him - but I and the rest of the family always marvelled at his appetite. But I did learn one of the my most important lessons of being a restaurateur from him. During the time that I'd now call mise en place - what a funny thing that is to think about - sometimes a ghostly little wisp of a woman would show up just inside our front door. She'd barely stand inside - like she was ready to run - which she almost did the first time I saw her and approached her. Just before she darted - my uncle came up - and just motioned for her to stay. She wouldn't sit on the banquettes we had at the front - but stand by nervously by the door. My uncle would rush back to the kitchen and start packing up a small feast - hot soup, fresh egg rolls, steamed rice - and a taste of everything we had on hand - always carefully topped off with a glassine bag of sweet, crisp almond cookies. He'd bring it out to her - hold the door and her the parcel - and solemnly thank her for her visit. Walking out the door - she'd watch him with wide eyes - like she couldn't believe her luck - not for the food of course - but for how he treated her. Spirits, food, restauration. I'm just so grateful.