How can you tell if you’re loved? Sometimes, says Enya Pan, it’s the difference between thick and runny porridge.
My mom never told me a single “I love you.” She never kissed me on the cheek when she dropped me off at elementary school like other parents did. So I had always thought that Chinese people are just unemotional; just reserved and conservative, part of their “tiger mom” nature. To me, love was heart emojis and warm smiles and pats on the back, and because I didn’t receive any of that, I thought I wasn’t loved.
Little did I know I was possibly the most loved person in the world. I just didn’t see it. I had no idea what love even was.
Chinese love is viscous. It’s as thick as the porridge that my mom makes every day in the rice cooker — the sticky jasmine rice that forms large and swollen clumps, the water completely evaporated, the heaviness of the spoon that I have to lift to bring the rice to my mouth. I used to hate thick porridge, refusing to eat it because it was hard to swallow.
As I matured, though, I began to notice how much of my parents’ love I had so ignorantly overlooked. Every morning, I would wake up to the smell of scrambled eggs sizzling on the pan. It was my mom who would wake up at 6 am to prepare a full meal for me; a breakfast of specially made green bean porridge because I can’t drink milk, eggs for Vitamin D, and a toasted bagel with peanut butter smeared on top for protein. She would force me to eat everything and leave no crumbs, nagging me to hurry so that I wouldn’t go to school on an empty stomach.