Some cookbooks matter because of the stories they tell. What they contain between their pages is connection. Maybe it’s even a love story, translated from grains of rice, egg rolls, stalks of lemongrass. The recipes? They’re simply the bonus round.

December 5, 1964: A woman named Thi Khen Tran leaves her young children and her home in Vietnam to work as a nanny in the States. By day, she takes care of the six children of American diplomats in North Carolina. By night, she works at a Vietnamese restaurant. When and if she’s paid by the diplomats, her salary is $10 a month. At the restaurant, she makes $4 a night. It is there she meets a handsome, debonair man, also from Vietnam, named Giap Ngo Van. A Parisian-trained chef, he helps other Vietnamese immigrants negotiate the turbulent and oft confusing ways of the new world in which they live.

Khen (pronounced Ken) thinks that Giap (pronounced Jee-ap) is a nice man, a man she can trust. Knowing Khen is unhappy working for the un-paying diplomats, Giap encourages her to move to New York City with him to nanny for a good family – Bertrand and Lisa Taylor’s family. They’ve hired Giap as their private chef. Khen moves to the city to care for daughter Laurie and baby son Lindsey.

Giap and Khen spend summers in Vineyard Haven with the Taylor children, quahaugging and fishing at Owen Park. Things are good. Very good. They are happy together, and she is able to send money home to support her family in Vietnam, hoping one day to be reunited with them.

When Giap retires, the Taylors hire a new cook. But then-four-year-old Lindsey won’t eat the new cook’s food. He only eats with Khen and only eats her sweet rice and rainbow cake. Khen becomes the cook for the family. “That’s why I had to learn to cook, for Laurie and Lindsey,” Khen writes in her self-published memoir-cookbook, The Egg Roll Lady of Martha’s Vineyard, which came out in June. “I made egg rolls and they loved it.”

Khen’s has been a familiar face at the Farmer’s Market in West Tisbury for more than twenty years. When she started selling there in 1986, she sold flowers and lettuce. After noticing everyone sold lettuce, she decided to try something different: smoked bluefish mousse. She’d learned how to make mousse from Giap; the bluefish was Khen’s Vineyard inspiration. Since the kids liked her egg rolls so much, she decided to try selling them. That was the summer of ’87. In that first year, priced at $1.75, they didn’t sell well. The next season, she decided, “If no one buys them for $1.75, I’ll sell them for $2.” When she did that everyone said, “We love your egg rolls,” she writes in her book, and she sold out.

In the beginning, Khen would cook the entire day before, only resting between midnight and 2 a.m. when she awoke to keep rolling for Saturday’s market. There have been many friends and family helping Khen through the years, but Lindsey was the inspiration from the beginning. He grew up rolling egg rolls beside Khen.

In 1991, both Madame Taylor and Giap passed away. They are buried on Martha’s Vineyard. Once a year, Khen burns incense for them. In 1995, Khen built her own home in West Tisbury, where she has her commercial kitchen, along with her thriving flower, vegetable, and herb gardens. It was in 1998 that Khen was finally able to bring her two (now-adult) children to the United States from Vietnam; they’ve settled on Martha’s Vineyard and in Florida. Khen’s Island-based grandchildren have graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School – Tanya is engaged and Ahn is off to college. And Lindsey Taylor – now thirty-five years old – his wife Melanie, and their son Lucas live with Khen on her property.

The four-and-a-half-year-old Lucas loves Khen’s Vietnamese omelet, asking for it whenever he sees his “grandmother.” Today, not only does Lindsey still roll the egg rolls side by side with Khen – Lucas does too.

Khen finds great satisfaction when customers return year after year, standing in line in front of her stand, waiting for the 9 a.m. Farmer’s Market bell to ring. Now she’s not only assisted by her children and grandchildren – whether her own or of the Taylor family – she’s feeding the children and the grandchildren of some of her most admiring regulars.

Look at Khen’s table at the Farmer’s Market. Her life in food is there. The egg rolls that fed Lindsey since he was a child. The cold rolls – which in the beginning were wrapped in rice paper that Mr. Taylor brought back from Paris. The blueberry tarts and meringues that Khen learned to make by watching her beloved Giap cook for the family. And it is his cookie recipe that Khen adapted, heavy with yolks left from the meringue; the M&Ms were Khen’s own granddaughter’s idea. It’s Laurie’s Kahlua-rich dense brownie recipe that you bite into. Daisy Taylor Lifton – the older sister to Laurie and Lindsey, and forever-loyal friend to Khen – suggested the sesame noodles, and it was Daisy who was the impetus for Khen’s memoir-cookbook – which she sells at the stand and is for sale at a few stores around the Island.