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Chinese Kitchen Rat

Main Ingredients:
chef de cuisine

Spice Pack:
1/2 cup of remorse
1 smidge of distraction

My mother was born in the year of the rat and took pride in it. She said rats were cunning, clever creatures. There is a tale that when all twelve animals from the chinese calendar raced, it was the rat who won. By riding on the back of strong, fast bull, the rat was able to leap across the finish line and win first place at the last second.

Being a monkey, my mother and I were supposed to get along well. Supposed to. Monkeys and rats share common traits of high intelligence, curiosity, and a mutual taste for trouble. Maybe she wasn’t around long enough for me to really get to know her, for us to really understand each other. Maybe if she had stayed around past my teen years, we could have become more than just housemates.

“What’s for dinner tonight?” I asked my mother, as she peeled the green tips from the garlic bulbs and shallots. Being the staple ingredient for every chinese stir fry, my mother was a chef de cuisine when it came to garlic cutting. The speed at which she could transform the shiny white bulbs into cubed sprinkles was an admirable feat to behold. As much I love garlic, I have always hated prepping them for the violent cutting board death. The tedious, mechanic nature of slicing and dicing often leaves my ‘minced’ garlic the size of chickpeas. It’s strange which memories choose to stick around. It’s the dumb, little things I remember and the way she used to reprimand my lack of patience when chopping garlic.

“I don’t know how call it,” she replied in her broken English and creased brows. Her voice was as cold as the oil was hot. What did I do to upset her? I thought back to earlier that day, retraced my steps since I returned home from school. I must have done something wrong. I decided not to beg the question, though I often wonder how our relationship would have been different if I had. Instead, our conversation ended there, just as the herbs were being tossed into the bubbling bath of oil over the blue fire.


  • This story is really powerful, and I think that you used the spice pack perfectly. There's this sense of regret from the main character for trying to forge this relationship but also the distraction of the cooking that the mother takes advantage of. Nice job!
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