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‘No more moving!’

Cookbook author finds ingredients for a perfect retirement

Created date

November 6th, 2015
Lily Tang reaches for her small-size wok and steamer

Lily Tang’s gracious demeanor, welcoming personality, and intriguing life story represent the warmth, friendliness, and cosmopolitan ambience that abound at Maris Grove, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Delaware County, Pa.

Her move two years ago from Wilmington, Del., where her son had worked at DuPont, capped a lifetime of pulling up roots and planting new ones in faraway places. 

Before Wilmington, she’d lived in West Chester, Pa., and before that, in Florida. 

But those moves don’t compare to earlier ones. 

Settling in Seattle

Lily was born in Beijing and lived there until she was 16. When the Japanese invaded, her father, an official with China’s Department of Foreign Affairs, moved the family to the northwest countryside of China. 

Their next move was to Santiago, Chile.

Lily eventually came to the United States, married, and settled in Seattle where she and her sister started teaching Chinese cooking and wrote a Chinese cookbook, Gourmet Guide to Chinese Cuisine. 

Lily hadn’t grown up learning to cook. Her family employed two cooks—one prepared everyday meals, and the other cooked when the family entertained foreign dignitaries. 

Captivated by enticing aromas and memorable tastes, Lily paid close attention to the cooks’ every move. That, and lots of practice, led to her expertise.

When she and her late husband moved to Orlando in 1966, she reprised her cooking school success. 

“No one had ever heard of Chinese cooking when we arrived,” Lily says. But by 1971, her classes were so well-attended that the Orlando Sentinel featured a lengthy article about her. In 1978, she wrote her second cookbook Lily Tang’s Gourmet Guide to Chinese Cooking.

Finding home

Now, in her light and sunny studio apartment home, Lily still occasionally cooks for herself, mainly stir-fry meals of vegetables and meat. “Or maybe chicken with cashew nuts and rice,” she says.

When her son and daughter-in-law visit from Kennett Square, she cooks their favorites. 

For larger get-togethers, everyone gathers at a Chinese restaurant where Lily tends to order a whole Peking duck accompanied by traditional pancakes and family-style side dishes. 

Lily learned about Maris Grove from her daughter-in-law’s parents, who also live there. 

She’d looked at other retirement communities, but “ Grove was the most likable,” she says. 

She’s learned to play billiards there, is learning to play Rummikub, and is perfecting her Chinese calligraphy. She also volunteers at the Treasure Chest, the campus thrift shop whose proceeds benefit the Resident Care Fund. 

“I’m very happy here,” she says. “People are very courteous and friendly, there’s plenty to do, and there’s no more moving!”