Before my parents returned to Virginia, my dear friend Chelsea gave them a card.
She created the card out of plain cardboard paper with the inscription: “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lee.” She had punched holes into the sides of the card and had laced a dryer sheet through them as “ribbons.” It was the most adorable thing ever.
“You know, I have some cards in the basement,” Susan said, staring at Chelsea as she tore the dryer sheet into strips. But Chelsea wanted the card to look modest, so she can show her heartfelt appreciation through her handmade efforts.
I don’t really know the contents of the card, but my parents were very touched when they read it. “I have so many white ‘daughters’ now,” my dad told me, chortling. As Christians, we call all fellow Christians our spiritual brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. But it’s not just a saying for us, at least to our family. My mom said something to me that really touched me the other day.
She was sharing her testimony about being “led like a cow by the nose ring” to Singapore when my dad made the decision to become a missionary. For years she had no friends. She could barely hold a conversation with my father’s Chinese colleagues for 5 minutes. Now, she said, her ears perk up and her heart sings when she hears Mandarin being spoken at the grocery store—even more than when she hears Korean.
I feel like I have received the same blessings my parents have: I find “family” wherever I go. For the three short days my parents were here in Asheville, Chelsea was part of our family. Who cares if she’s white and we’re Asian, or that she’s a rural New York homebody while we’re well-traveled urbanites. For the time she was with us—and for eternity in Christ—she’s family.
We took her along with us to Biltmore Mansion. I don’t have pictures of Biltmore Mansion’s interior because pictures (and even sketches!) are forbidden.
But just take a look at the Biltmore garden:
If you ever visit Asheville, do try to plan a trip to the Biltmore Mansion. It’s gorgeous, and it’s apparently the biggest private-owned housing estate in America. The 250-room castle was built by some rich guy named George Washington Vanderbilt between 1889-1895.
Right now it stretches out over 8,000 acres (it used to be 125,000 acres!), holding Garden a la Françoise-style lawns and landscapes, complete with a conservatory, vineyard and boathouse. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous and insanely lavish.
Chelsea and I ooh-ed and aah-ed over the fine art collections, the regal furniture, the wide-spaced kitchen (BBQ smokers! and a dessert kitchen!) and library (oh darling, the books! the books!). But even so, we couldn’t help remarking, “Strange how we’re paying to see how the super rich live.” There was even a memoriam dedicated to the Vanderbilts’ family history—for what? Being rich and building a beautiful house?
It was later through research that I discovered the Vanderbilts boosted the local economy by hiring many residents and thriving as a tourist destination. But in the middle of the tour, my dad leaned over and said to Chelsea and me, “This house is beautiful but your heavenly kingdom will be greater.”
So then Chelsea and I started dreaming about our home in heaven, and we are quite certain we’ll live in the same village, where we’ll hold an exclusive heavenly book club. Me, I also want a grand banquet hall for heavenly feasts, and for that I’ll also have a big-ass kitchen that dances with praise songs and sweet aromas. Chelsea, meanwhile, wants a grand table and wide walls on which she can paint all her wild emotions and thoughts. Between the two of us, I’ll bet we’ll hold marvelous heavenly book clubs.
Our “feast” at the Biltmore Mansion was a quick cafe lunch of sandwiches, wraps and fountain water, but we had the most delicious sweet ending to our day:
Ice cream! Apparently the Biltmore estate used to churn its own ice cream from its farm dairy. Now the ice cream is produced off-estate, but the recipe is still based on the original Vanderbilt one.
The creamery gives huge portions, so Chelsea and I split one, and my parents split the other. The kids got toasted almond ice cream…
While the parents got peach ice cream. Both in crunchy, buttery waffle bowls. We ate half of ours and then switched flavors. No such thing as double dipping among family.
We might not be rich like the Vanderbilts, but how much armchairs and flora do you need anyway? At that moment, all we needed was a little belly space for these wonderful ice cream. We licked our spoons, swinging our legs and grinning at each other.
The best way to end your tour at Biltmore, to remind yourself that wealth comes in many forms—and tastes.
After my parents and I dropped Chelsea off at the Olaskys, I interviewed my parents in Korean for an article I’m working on for WORLD. And then dinnertime came and I took them to a place that a friend, Tiffany, recommended to me once.
It’s called Sunny Point Cafe, a sort of hippie meets country-style kind of dining place.
It seems to me that Asheville has a lot of those edgy yet Southern cafes; the dining scene reflects the colorful, distinct characteristics of Asheville. I brought my parents here because Sunny Point seemed to me the ultimate Asheville dining experience.
Turns out Sunny Point was the wrong place to take my parents, unfortunately. I should have known they have no patience for healthy hippie-fied food.
We started out fine—with these crunchy, olive oil-soaked toasts dipped in vibrant pesto:
And a simple mixed greens salad drizzled with minimal honey mustard dressing:
But then my dad wanted steak, which would be the bottom rung dish to get in a place like this. But he wanted his red meat, so I didn’t deter him. So I let him order his Ribeye:
Meyer Ribeye marinated with red wine and herbs. Topped with skordalia sauce, blue cheese scallion mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. With a glass of red wine.
It was a horrible piece of steak. Unskillfully cooked chunk of sinewy, fatty meat. My dad had to scrape out a small hill of inedible tendons and fat.
My mom ordered something she didn’t realize was vegan:
It was a vegan primavera “pasta”: Sautéed onions, leeks, carrots, heirloom tomatoes, and garlic in corn milk and cashew “cream” sauce tossed with zucchini ribbon “pasta” and garnished with scallions and sliced almonds.
The vegetables themselves were fresh and lovely…but the “cream” sauce…It wasn’t exactly horrible, but it just wasn’t cream sauce. It was a goopy, dense sorta milky broth that cloyed the tongue after a while. My mom couldn’t finish it so my dad and I had to finish the dish for her.
I liked my dish best of all, which was Sunny Point’s popular dish, the corn and bean stacks:
Black bean and corn griddled cakes, grilled and layered with pumpkin seeds, sundried tomatoes and feta. Topped with poblano-cream sauce and tortilla strips. Side of chili-lime greens.
The cakes were beautiful! They were gritty (I think there’s cornmeal in there?), speckled with juicy corn nibs and black beans. The sauce on top was zesty yet creamy, a nice complement to the crunchy-gritty cakes.
My parents are more well-traveled than I am, but they still rely on me to order for them when we visit a restaurant that aren’t Korean, Chinese or Italian. It’s always a compromise when we go to restaurants. I try to let them order what they crave, but I also usually suggest dishes I think they might like to them.
I always try to push my parents out of their comfort zones and try new things, like Persian food or Mediterranean food, and usually they like what I order for them. But mostly, they allow me to drag me to new places because they love me. In truth, I know they would much rather slurp up spicy Korean soup or dig into a steaming plate of simple pasta than try something “exotic.”
With parents like them, I feel like I have all the riches I need in the world already.
Question of the Day: Who is the “adventurous eater” in your family?