My Second Aunt’s Peppermint Chicken

A dish, made, with a TON of love, translated…

Mom called to ask, if I wanted some peppermint?  “Of course!”, I’d hung up my cell, and, my second aunt came to my mind.

Mom has two older sisters, the closest was my second aunt.  My second aunt married off close to my grandmother’s house, and lived their lives, as hardworking farmers with my second uncle, she’d often used the spare time she had after work, and carried bags and bags of homegrown produces, rode the night trains up to Taipei; her appearances would always cause all of us to holler so loudly, and, those homegrown fruits and vegetables had helped save a lot of money for my parents, who aren’t really that well-to-do.

薄荷雞 的圖片結果marinating the chicken in mint…phoot from online…

One summer, mom took me home to visit when I was in the elementary years, I’d wandered around, there were, fowls kept at the front of the field.  And, suddenly, a red-faced duck came toward me, half-crazed, bit down tightly on my skirt, I was so thrilled I’d started crying loudly.  At which time, my second aunt came out of the kitchens with her cooking spatula, and “shooed” off the ducks, at the same time, trying hard, to comfort me who was already, flustered and freaked out.

The aromatic scents came from the house, it’d, made me forget about the scare I just had.  “So aromatic, what are you cooking, second aunt?”  “I’m making peppermint chicken for you guys”.  I’d entered into the kitchen, saw an assortment of yummy dishes, on the tables, it’d made me, drool.  Her way of showing us the hospitality was, kept getting the foods from the plates, into our bowls.  I’d smiled and told her, “Enough, I can’t even see the rice underneath now!”, my second aunt told me, all of these, are simple and plain dishes.

Later, I’d learned that it takes a lot of preparation, to make a peppermint chicken.  Once we’d arrived at my second aunt’s early, my uncle said, “Your aunt went to harvest some mints at the fields, she should be returning soon.”, a short while later, my second aunt came in, with two large bags of mint, seeing us, she’d, swiftly, picked enough mints and washed the leaves, and, killed a rooster swiftly, and, set up the stoves, to start cooking the garlics, the chives, then, started, stir-frying the mints.

My second aunt salted the entire rooster, then, stuffed the rooster’s inside full of the stir-fried mints, then, she’d, started, cooking the rooster.  As the fire crackled on, she’d kept turning the chicken, to prevent it from burning, she’d become like an octopus, working on other dishes as well.  As the crispy mint chicken was plated and served, I couldn’t help, but get the mints out of the stuffing, and stuffed them into my mouth, and, it was sweeter as I chewed.  My second aunt immediately ripped off one leg, placed it inside my bowl, with love flowing from her eyes.

媽媽打電話來,問我要不要薄荷草?「當然要啊。」放下手機,我不由得想起二姨。 圖/...illustration from the papers…

After I married, I’d lived closer to my mother’s home, every time as she was going to visit my second aunt, she’d always called me up, “Your second aunt asked me if she needs to make the mint rooster, she’ll make one for you.”  “Of course,” I’d exclaimed excitedly.

Many years later, I’d not felt right, troubling my aging aunt, I’d said, “just the mints would be fine”, I’d cooked by my aunt’s methods, but, I could, never quite make the mint chicken like she was able to.

This day, I’d recalled my second aunt, working in and out of the kitchens, I’d, lifted my head toward the skies, said to my second aunt, “Thanks for making your, amazing mint chicken for us!”

Because this family member had, prepared the food with such great care and love, that, was why those who were served it, loved it, and, this is probably why, the writer couldn’t quite, make the same dish like her aunt had, because, her aunt had, cooked with care, concern, and love with them in her mind…

Never Knowing the Man I’d, Become…

This, is what you are, you are, never knowing the man I’d, become, because you were, NEVER there, watching me grow every step of the way, and, as I was younger, I’d, felt awful, that you weren’t around, to bear witness of my transformations, and now I realized, that I have, NOTHING to regret!

Never knowing the man I’d, become, my father, and, the loss will be, YOURS, and yours alone!  Nobody will, EVER care about or for you, because, you’d done, so many WRONG things in your life…

Never knowing the man I’d become, you will, forever, live, without knowing the man that I am, the man, you will, NEVER be, for I’d become, BETTER than you EVER were as a father to me, to my own young!

I vowed, to NEVER BE like you, when I had my own young and now, as my children grow older by the day, with me, watching closely by, I knew, that I’d, made the RIGHT choices in life, unlike you, who’d done, EVERYTHING wrong, from the very START…

Never knowing the man I’d become, that, is your loss, NOT mine, and, I feel sorry, that you never got to know your own children, well, I don’t, not really, because I’m NOT supposed to.  The regrets are now, ALL yours!









You Like it? I’ll Buy it for You

The siblings who are so close, without the rivalry here, translated…

The two kids are two years apart, the older sister is about 5’2, the younger 1brother is 5’9, standing together, it’s hard to believe they’re older sister and younger brother, and, as we went out, we’d gotten used to calling my son “the eldest”.  But the name of “eldest”, is not for everybody, this name was, rightfully, earned by him.

One summer it was too hard, with nowhere to go, the whole family went shopping at the malls.  None of us loved the name brands, and so, nothing held our gaze, and yet, for my daughter who collected the Gundam robots, she saw the high-end collectible, and couldn’t take her eyes off of it.

like how these children are playing togehter, sharing the toys???  Not my photo.

At which time, my son who’s right next to her stated, “You like it?  I’ll buy it for you.”, which shocked us, my daughter called out to me, “eldest brother!”

My son was excellent in school since he was growing up, he’d often received scholarships from his school, but he’d saved up every last dollar from his scholarship moneys, and wouldn’t spend it carelessly.  That day, he’d pulled out the money so generously, this shows how close the older sister younger brother were toward each other.

And, my son’s reputation of being the “eldest”, tagged along behind him since that day.

So, this, is how close the siblings were, the younger brother, because of his height, was called the eldest brother by the family, and surely enough, he had, lived up to the name, taking care of his “younger” sister, giving her what she’d wanted, because that, is how an older brother should love his baby sister.

something like this, for his older sister, photo from online…

Steamed Eggs

Connected, by our favorite food item, translated…

After the stroke he’d had, after long-term in recovery, my father started, regaining his lost strengths back again.  But, his damaged brain was like the cracked eggshells, can no longer be repaired.

Thankfully, he’d still, remembered us, and had recited the name of everybody in the house over and over again, and at the end, he’d playfully added, everybody’s fine…

In order to make a perfect bowl of steamed egg, it takes more, than beating the egg, and adding some water to the egg mixtures, you’d still needed, to filter the egg out, in case there were air bubbles in the process of beating the egg, causing there to be holes as the steamed egg was cooked.  But, if you’d needed to get every single dish you make proper cookware, then, there wouldn’t be enough space in your kitchens, and you wouldn’t be using the items you’d bought but a handful of times per month, and so, as we’d made the steamed eggs, we’d, done away with the filtering process.

But, I’d still loved the smooth and soft steamed eggs, especially the kind that’s served with the Japanese meal boxes, inside a tea cup, scooping it up with the small spoon that’s provided, there were mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, clams, with a colorful tempura as décor on top.  This sort of a steamed egg has the stock of fish with every single bite, and, the foods would, slid down into the throats, making you want to keep on having more, and, in a very short time, you’d, finished up the entire cup of it, then, you’d started, on the rest of the delicacies on the plates.  I can only recall how my mother, my older sister, and I would head out to have these special meals.  A meal like this wouldn’t be costly, but, it’d cost over a hundred dollars more than the regular boxed meals, my father who’s known to save up every last penny wouldn’t eat it with us, but, he’d always, taken us out to have these Japanese meals, and, if we brought him along with us, then, we’d, needed to, put up with his soured face through the entire meal, like how we’re, eating our last suppers, or, we’d watched him, frowning, as he’d, selected the cheapest items on the menus, and it’d, made us all ashamed, and lost our appetites.

In order to fulfill my own desires of having steamed eggs, since the elementary school years, I’d started, making it for me.  The steamed eggs I’d made, had so many pores that it’d resembled the rocks being eroded by the oceans waves.

Back then, the supermarkets weren’t huge on foreign foods, and, there weren’t many international people who are working here like today, Thai, Vietnamese, as well as American style foods, we’d needed to go to certain restaurants to have it.  And, the sorts of condiments we have at home, is the black soy sauces, or the cooking oils, the salts we’d gotten, at the farmer’s markets with the food vouchers.  Even those eggbeater, it’d become, this new “toy” that surfaced into our home later on, but was, soon enough discarded, because it took too long to clean it after use.

Using a pair of chopsticks, beat the eggs, add some water, beat it a couple of times more.  The chopsticks making the clinking noises, as we’d, sped up the beating of the eggs, listening to that, we know, something is going on, it’d made us, proud, and, for the final touch, a pinch of salt for seasoning.

Because I’m the only one who’d wanted this dish, so, I can only use the produces I can get, the chicken and the mushrooms, I couldn’t get, the fish balls, I have NO clue where I can buy from.  The proportions of the egg, water, and salt, I go by feel, like the last time I’d made it, my family said it was, too salty, then this time, I’d, add a little less of salt, if the last time, they’d told me it wasn’t, savory enough, then I’d added a little extra salt this time.  Even the water used to steam the eggs up inside the electric rice cooker, I’d gone by my feel, thus, I’d always either added too much on the inside of the cooker, not enough, the eggs I’d steamed were usually always, scarred and holed, like the uneven roads, the colors didn’t spread evenly enough, and, there was, that white in the light yellow too, and, there was, that layer of bluish gray, like a bruise, it’d tasted, hard, and awful.  Although, I could never get it just right, my mother had, allowed me to try it again and again, and again, it’d saved her the energies, to come up with another dish, and besides, someone always finishes it at the end of the meals.

In my middle school years, I’d, stopped, going into the kitchens, and, even for my suppers, I’d needed to study late at the schools, so, I’d, bought the packed meals at school.  Until I’d gone away for college, and returned home only on the weekends and holidays, and I’d just, needed to, get served my meals, and every now and then, I’d, insisted on going out with friends to dine too.  I’d started, cooking less and less on my own.

蒸蛋 的圖片結果the kind that’s served in a Japanese restaurant…photo from online…

I’d gotten used to the heavy flavors from eating in the restaurants, and felt, that the foods cooked at home were, tasteless, and I’d, just, carelessly taken a few bites, then, put it down, I’d never considered, from my mother’s angles, how much she’d, put in, to make these meals.  My mother allowed us to be, she’d stopped cooking the foods we didn’t like, and in the end, she’d made the foods that I liked, and, bought the items ready-made, because I’d returned home, once every long while.  The Japanese shop we’d gone to when we were still younger had, closed for business, plus, we can now, get the tasty steamed eggs from the 24/7 marts.  And, that sense of cherishing became like the egg mixture, with too much water added, too diluted, to be cooked into stable form, and, that imagination I’d had toward growing up also, became like the air bubbles at the surface of the beaten egg mixtures, stiffened, as it’d gotten, cooked by reality, became porous.

Until two years ago, my father had a stroke suddenly.  That was during the New Year’s, and that New Year’s Eve became, the last time we’d spent together, JUST the two of us.

From the moment my father was rushed into the E.R., he’d fallen into a coma, and, I’d tossed and turned, on that temporary bed, put together with two plastic chairs, a way too small blanket that couldn’t cover up my toes which were growing cold, and my shoulders either, I’d slept uneasily throughout the nights.  Each and every time I’d awakened, I’d watched my father, deep in his sleep, I’d felt, comforted, glad, that he was finally, able to sleep quite well.  And, my father would always start laboring at the crack of dawn, if there’s no household chores, he’d gone for his long morning walks, and, in the noon hours, he’d used his arms as a pillow, and stayed by the side of the bed, wouldn’t allow himself to sleep too long.  At night, if there’s something we’d needed, we’d given him a holler and he’d, wake right away, with no looks of fatigue, like that soldier ready for duty, flipping over, waking up, to fight the battles of a war.  But, his enemies, are the hardships of life.

the less extravaagant kind we make at home, photo from online still…

That day, he’d slept for a very long time, sometimes, I’d felt that sudden scare from my imagined feelings of safety, gone up to his face, made sure he was still breathing, then, curled back into my plastic chair, kept waiting again.  Over a little more than ten hours, my father finally woke up.  I’d recalled that he hadn’t eaten for a long time, after I’d gotten the okay from the doctor, I’d grabbed my purse, rushed to the food court in the basement of the hospital, I’d, walked around the shops, kept worrying that my father may be weakened from not having enough food for a long time, and worked hard, to think of what kinds of foods are soft and easy to chew, as well as, nutritious too.

At which time, I saw that steamed egg at the cafeteria.  Opened up the steam basket, the steams came to me, suddenly, I was like that Japanese fairytale character, arrived to the shores that I’m on, without much time I can waste.

I’d taken the steamed egg back to the room, propped my father up on his bed, with a small spoon, fed him, bite by bite, watched him, like my deceased maternal grandmother had, grinded the steamed eggs down, then, swallowing the bites, and, he’d become, in a daze, after he finished just half of the servings, he’d told me he was full, and, I’d tried, to get him, to take a few more bites.

That was, another father.  Like the man whom I’d watched sleeping, but, he was, no longer the exact same man.  In his dreams, his troubling thoughts were, with the egg mixtures added in, originally very thick, and it’d now, become, diluted, with that lighter yellow, like it was, just formed.

I’d put down the steamed egg, pulled a tissue, to wipe his lips off, carefully asked him who I am.  He’d called the first two characters of my name, and, he could only, vaguely recall the vowels from my last, and, confused, spoken aloud a couple of words that sounded like it, and, I’d felt bad, having to keep on guessing it, I’d just, smiled toward him, then, helped him lower himself onto his pillow, to continue finishing his sleep.

After that stroke, after the long and arduous recovery, my father slowly, regained his physical strengths.  But, his damaged brain became like the broken eggshells, can no longer be repaired.  Thankfully, he’d remembered us all, would recite our names several times a day, and at the end, he’d always added, “everybody is fine” playfully.

After this long, I’d started making the steamed eggs again.  Still using my chopsticks, making the loud noises, with my father hooraying me on, then, we’d both laughed, that I was, just, showing off, that it wouldn’t affect the taste one bit.  Then, I’d added, some stock, or the fish soy sauce to the mixtures, and the rest of the sides depended on what I have, sometimes, it was the diced up chicken pieces I just bought home, and, I’d prepared some mushrooms too.  With the egg and the other food items mixed in proportionally, I’d placed it into the rice cooker, added half a cup of water on the outside, and, not long thereafter, the steam rose from the electric rice cooker, and although I still can’t make my steamed eggs silky smooth, but it’d tasted delicious just the same.  Because it had the holes, looked fluffy, some of the times got condensed into it, one attached close to the next.

We’d used our rice bowls to eat, without that atmosphere from the Japanese food shops, but, it’d tasted, about the same.

So, this, is the foods you shared growing up, and it’d become, this connective memory that you and your families have together.  This still showed, how we often connect with the foods we enjoy, making it for the ones we cared for and loved, because that, was how love was shown to us when we were growing up too.

The Photo in My Wallet

The only thing, to remind me of you, translated…

At seven, an age which there’s, this deeply rooted need for maternal love, I was taken away by my father because my parents were getting a divorce, and ever since, I can only, miss my mom inside my mind.  I’d heard, that mom took my younger brother, and married someone else in Taipei.

After I graduated from technical high school, I’d gone to military school, and missed my mother even more so.  And, as I’d investigated, I’d found, that my mother lives in Yingge, and wasn’t well-off.  And, I’d taken the advantage of being on vacation, and, didn’t let my father know, and gone to visit my mother, and, the joys from missing each other for over twenty years were, unspeakable.

something like this???  Photo from online…

After I graduated from the military academy, I was sent to the guerrilla squad in Tainan, and, right before I was about to enlist, I’d gone to visit my mother again, and knowing that it would be hard, for me to find days off to visit her again, I’d asked for a photo of her.  In the photo, mom looked very kind and elegant, with her light smile, looking very gentle, I kept the photo, carefully, in the innermost fold of my wallet, and, would take it out to look at every day after I was drilled, like my mom’s there, right by my side, and, no matter how difficult life got, I had what it took to survive through it.

Several years later, my wallet went missing on a train ride, I became so flustered, and thankfully, someone mailed my wallet back to me, and, the cash I had was no longer there, but, to me, the most important thing was that the photo of my mother was still there.

the memories I kept of you!  Photo from online…

So, this, is how hard it was, growing up without a mother by his side, he grew up without his mother, and, that became a missing part of his history, something he’d lacked, maternal love from her, and, the photo that his mother gave to him, became an object of his affection toward her.

Lunch Date, Between a Parent & a Child


My daughter goes to a private institution.  After she’d entered into middle school, she’d been busying, attending the cram schools, to better her grades, only on weekends, were we able to find the time, to get together.  On the eve of Mother’s Day, she’d texted, said she’d wanted to head to the close by brunch shop, so we can have some mother-daughter time together.

During that time, she’s busying on the skits, the national English exams, with a lot of hard homework assignments, I’d been busying, drawing and teaching too; we lived under the same roof, but, with the distances in between us growing greater and greater, and our conversations from day to day were reduced to, “had you any food?”, and “good night”.  And, if I’d inquired about her grades, then, the originally quiet evening would become, stormy.

There were, so many things I’d wanted to ask her, I was so excited, I’d only slept for five hours, and got up, started flipping through the photos of her as a child, riding that bicycle through the town of Yilan, eating each other’s shaved ice, catching the lizard at the hiking site, plucking flowers from Yangming Mountain………there was, this sense, of realness, in her foolish and playful looks.

I’d then, clicked at my daughter’s postings on FB one by one.  In her teenage years, she’d gotten taller, her face became longer too.  There was, that lack of innocence in her long face, with that hint of stubbornness added on; there was hints of maturity in her taller, but still childish body now, and, there’s, that habitual frown between her eyes as she’d buckled down to study.  And, her wise eyes, are still, the brightest stars that I can ever see.

When she was younger, I’d often, started kissing her face and hugged her.  This sort of unplanned, unasked for show of intimacy, is the best way to show love between the members of the family, and, although she’d carried that disgusted look, and pushed me away, but, compared to words, bodily contact helps me express my love toward her.

補習,只有周日我們才有機會悠閒地聚會。母親節前夕,女兒傳了封簡訊,表示想前往住家...from the papers…

We’d arrived to the location of the gathering early.  My daughter complained on how she’d had some minor misunderstandings with her classmates, how hard it was, for her to keep up in her drama club and class work, and which soap she loved.  We’d talked about how we were doing, as her mother, I’d felt, a bit, nervous.

She’d picked up that coffee, that we wouldn’t allow our kids to drink, and, started sipping at it in my dumbfoundedness, stated how good it’d, tasted, then, pushed her soup to in front of me, to share with me.  Sharing the foods, it’d helped the flow of words along.  As I’d thought back to last night how I’d, flipped through the photos, time is moving in the now, but, we’d, kept reminiscing over the past.

The alarm from her cell came.  My daughter checked in, and took a selfie, and photographed the omelet in her plate, shared the foods she was having with her friends.  And, I can only, set up her photo like I was, doing a tarot reading.

“Stop playing on your cell phone.”, it was, as if, I was, voicing out my barely audible complaint inside a cave.  Because, the answers that came to me were, “just a second”, “I’m almost done”.  My daughter was right in front of me, reachable in physical distance, but, her mind was, totally, controlled by that small device.

My daughter’s right hand was answering the texts, and used her left hand, picked up the pepper shaker.  Suddenly, time had, stopped, the needles got, spilled onto the tables, floors, and, there were, toothpicks, all over her omelet.  She’d, picked up the wrong jar.

As we’re on our way back, we’d laughed as we recalled how that silky smooth omelet, became like a porcupine.  She’d told me she wanted to come again, because the fillings in the omelet, mushrooms, ham, and cheeses, were more than the omelet itself.  

I’d, rained on her parade, and told her she can have a “date” with her cell phone the next time.  She’d not minded, and got really closed to me, said, in a playful way, “Let’s have a special lunch date, with my specialty, porcupine omelet.”

She didn’t understand Taiwanese, she’d not heard the female owner of the shop, while she’d picked up after us saying, “Such wasteful manners, how wasteful!”

So, the two of you had a special lunch date, and, this is going to get harder and harder to plan, because your daughter is all grown up, with her own friends, her own life to live, and, there’s, not that much time, that the two of you can share those moments of intimacies the two of you used to that often or easily anymore…

Catch & Release

The meaning of a recurring nightmare, and now, she was finally, get beyond what made her so scared from her younger years, she’s, a grown woman now, translated…

At first, they’d started arguing about minute things that are quite unimportant, but later on, the reactions escalated like a serious allergy reaction, the fires of war burned for days on end, without any moment to spare, the entire house was, filled up with the fuses and the fumes.  Like how a stone that got casted out which was swallowed by air, he’d kept his silence like he usually would, it’d made her felt, as though she was having this fight, with an imaginary enemy, nothing more.

like this?  Not my sketch…

In this awkward atmosphere, life still marched on.  At dusk, she’d entered into the kitchen to cook, and her daughters loud shriek was like an arrow, into her heart, she’d immediately turned off the faucet, exited the kitchen, her daughter had already, ran from behind her, using her arms, drew out the biggest possible circle she knew how, “Mom, there is this HUGE spider in my room, thankfully, daddy went in and took care of it.”  And, after that, she’d, vanished in a jiffy, to see the remains of that unwelcomed guest.

She’d turned on the faucet again, the water started pouring down, and, although her hands were in the wash basin, cleaning up the rice, her thoughts still churned and turned, like the broiling water.  After ten, she’d had the recurring dreams of a spider web, with an assortment of insect that mistakenly, entered into that death trap, and worked hard, to wiggle their stuck bodies, to get away, from that dark shadow that approaches them quicker and quicker, and yet, her dreams always ended, at the moment, when the spider had its pinchers around the preys, maybe, it’s her subconscious that’s, protecting that ten-year-old young girl, from bearing witness to the violence.

At the age of ten, before her home was foreclosed by the courts, her mother had finally had it with her father, who’s a habitual gambler, left home, and, her father, who’d dodged the collectors during the daytime, would only come home late at night stealthily, back then, she and her sisters were already asleep, and, after weathering the nights of people, banging so loudly on their doors, they’d pretended that nobody was there, in that room with the lights still on, falling asleep.  Finding a hiding place in the dreams, helped them forget the fears in their realities.  A spider with long legs stealthily, entered into the three young girls who were without adult care, played the game of hide-and-seek with them in the mansion, his name sounded like a fierce monster, so long as the monster appeared, they’d run, helplessly and flustered, from this room to another.

Later, that spider and that mansion both, disappeared out of her life.  Later on, they’d lived in and out of multiple rental homes, and perhaps, it’s that they’d not spent enough time in each of the places, so she’d not bumped into any more of those fierce critters again.  Until she saw it again, at the place of her first love, she didn’t even have the time to feel shocked, her lover used his agility, killed it with a broom.  When they were in love, this sort of a heroic act was, so luring, but she’d become, just like that spider, swept, out of the world, and that, was when she realized, just how awful it is, to kill something with just one strike.

As she’d placed the foods she’d prepared to the supper table, she’d looked over at that bag of coffee beans with the ammunition scent coming from it lying there, quietly, on the tables, that fuse he wasn’t willing to take the round way to get in the after work traffic, still gone around the block, and presented itself to her, he’d still, kept his quiet, just kept doing what he did, and waited, for her to discover his actions, just like how after the marriage, he’d put up with her neediness, and waited until she’d filled her heart back up.

permanently, INKED onto the child’s walls as she sleeps, not my photo…

That supper table that’d become frozen for days on end, reignited in her daughter’s constant questioning, turns out, that spider didn’t die, it was just placed inside a bag, and took out by him to release away from home.  She had yet to know how to disarm the weapons on her face, silently heard the story of spider, in the laughter of the daughter and father, that scary creature that’s shocked her so once, didn’t seem to suck the air out of her anymore.

She’d guessed, that she will, dream of that web again tonight, it’d been so many years now, perhaps, she’s, grown enough, to fight off those dark shadows, and there was one who needed her to protect, and, even IF there were, so many things that were behind that dark shadow, but she’s no longer that helpless, fragile who waited for rescue that she once was anymore.

That, was when she’d found, that those silks that’s entangled her in, was from her own mouth, the silks had, been weaved, into the nightmares one by one, and, her eyes became misty and wet while she was, spitting out the silks, that she’d, entangled herself in.

So, it’d taken this woman, so long, to finally realized, that she’d been, entangled by her own past, and, that, was why she’d dreamed of that spider which symbolized her greatest fears from her younger years, and, as she’d become an adult, because she didn’t fully DEAL with everything yet, that spider still haunted her dreams, until she’d realized, that she is NO longer that helpless child she’d been, when she’d encountered that scary spider for the very first time in her childhood years anymore.