The Story of Yey
In the mid to late 70’s the communist Khmer Rouge and their leader Pol Pot took power over Cambodia and claimed the lives of over 2 million people by execution, forced labor and scarcity of food. Under their brutal rule, both my parents and their families were separated and forced to work in labor camps under unimaginable conditions.
My grandmother on my mother’s side had 11 children, 4 who passed away during that time from starvation and malnutrition. My father's side had a very similar experience and lost his father and older brother. He was forced to take the responsibility as man of the family at the age of 9 for his sister and my grandmother.
In the early 80’s my grandparents and their 7 children reunited after escaping to a refugee camp in Thailand where they resided for a couple years. During the mid 80’s they finally came to the US to start a new life.
Today, most of my family resides in Rochester, NY, still living in their first houses they purchased in the US.
It is truly unbelievable to think about what they have had to witness during these hard times. I have been so inspired by my grandmother and all she did to get our family back together. I know it may sound corny but without her determination and love for her family, I literally wouldn't be here today.
When the war happened, people just ate anything just to survive. Cambodian food was gradually disappearing. Though my grandma appreciates the life she is able to live here, she never wanted to forget our roots and always shared our culture with us the best way she knew how - through her cooking. My whole life after school, my grandma and great aunt always babysat me. They taught me traditional Cambodian cooking techniques and recipes that have been passed down. For years, I helped them cater hundreds of events and cook for the masses. It has truly connected me to my culture and is something I feel very passionate about.
Yey (យាយ) is Cambodian for Grandmother.
This is Yey’s Cafe
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