Just Like Home
Every time I walk into Saigon on 5th, I can't help but feel a little nostalgic. The diverse aromas of the spices used in our cooking are the same that steamed out from my grandmother's kitchen when I was a boy growing up in New York City. The flavors and fragrances are just as rich as the story behind them.
As a young widow with two daughters, Vay Tran knew that war-torn Vietnam in the 1970's was no place to raise a family. She wanted to escape, which was no small feat during that time. As her homeland was littered with land mines and trigger-happy soldiers. Vay used what she had left in Vietnam and found a gracious soldier to guide them through the mines and safely to shore. This is where they took a small, bullet-riddled boat to a refugee camp in Thailand.
Coming to America
As a foreign refugee Grandma Tran took care of the family by selling pastries until it came time for a camp-wide lottery drawing to see who would go to the United States. As my grandfather had been a soldier who served in the U.S. military. The heads of the camp said my grandmother would for sure be chosen as long as she could prove her deceased husband's of nine years U.S. affiliation. Miraculously, she remembered his military ID number, and she was on the first boat to the United States.
Once in the States, Grandma Tran truly embraced the American dream, opening several restaurants and using the profits to bring all her family stateside, including the soldier who first helped them through the landmines. It is an honor and I am humbled to call him Dad.