My Layers of Love for Lasagna
 The Family Encounter
I don’t remember how young I was, but my great-aunt was the first person to introduce me to a pasta dish called lasagna. My family and I were up at her house for a family gathering and I remember eating this meat sauce and cheese layered “thing.” I didn’t ask what it was called. It was good, and that was all that mattered. When did I learn it was called lasagna? Even that is very hazy. I don’t recall the specific date or time I learned it was called lasagna, but I sure do remember eating it, loving it, and being fascinated by it. The next thing I know, I was asking for “la-ja-nya” during dinner. As I’ve gotten older, my childhood memories have faded – heck, even memories from a few days ago get a little hazy – but I sure know that lasagna wasn’t common on our dinner table. As I’d eat my Korean meal – rice with various ban-chan (side dish) – I’d hear my parents and grandparents talk about their days, the future, upcoming family plans, and the next meals to cook. Those next meals were rarely American, and if they were, my mom would just cook whatever she felt like cooking – usually non-Korean food meant Japanese style curry, mom’s homemade spaghetti, cheese pasta with leftover spaghetti sauce, or chicken stew.
After that first encounter, my great-aunt made lasagna so many times I cannot possibly count them all. Each time, when we were ready to leave her house, she would yell, “Wait!” in a hurry as she would remember about the lasagna she left in the freezer for us. They were cut into cubes and packed in Ziploc bags. She instructed us, “You take one out and put it on the plate. Remember, it has to be microwaveable plate. Ask your mom if you don’t know. Two minutes. Microwave for two minutes, okay? If two minutes is not good, microwave every one minute,” and we’d respond with nods. Now she skips that step. We’re capable enough to at least microwave food. 
With my grandparents and brother.
The only other time I remember having lasagna with my family was when my grandmother decided to make it. It was during the summer. Her passion to cook was ignited by my brother and I whining about how much we wanted our “great-aunt’s” lasagna and how we never made it at our home. Next thing you know, she decided to make the lasagna and I remember that that day was her first time making it for us, and she was really confident about it.
I don’t know if she made it for my brother or grandfather before I was born (my brother is six years older), but it’s a day I still remember so well. I was really excited as I watched her boil the pasta and make spaghetti sauce. Then she would take a big aluminum pan and layer it with lasagna noodles and pour the homemade spaghetti sauce over it. On top of that, she would put on another layer of lasagna noodles (this time, perpendicular to the original layer) and then a layer of ricotta cheese. I’d stick around nibbling on a plain pasta noodle and put my hand into the pint of ricotta cheese trying to salvage any leftover smears of cheese. She would continue repeating the process of layering lasagna, sauce, lasagna, ricotta, lasagna, sauce, etc. until it filled to the top of the pan. The final piece would be topped off with shredded mozzarella cheese and it would be popped into the oven until the cheese was toasty and bubbling. However, our oven’s temperature knob fell off so we never had a precise temperature – the only people allowed to touch the oven were my mom and grandma, and maybe my grandpa. They would usually crank it up to whatever degree they thought felt right, but to keep things safe the only thing we’d bake were sweet potatoes and potatoes, and we very rarely baked chicken (that would take so long). The day grandma made lasagna for us was really special... because she hasn’t made it since.