upper waypoint

Enya Pan: Love as Thick as Porridge

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

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.


Late at night, I would hear the angry footsteps in the hallway. It was my dad at 3 am who would fling open my bedroom door—furious and begging me to go to bed. I always told him off, saying, “But you didn’t even sleep yet.” Yet it wasn’t even about him.

I never understood the importance of these events until I realized how much love and persistence it required to wake up early just to make me breakfast or urge me to sleep earlier. Loving me is a routine for them. It is also something I could never fully reciprocate.

There’s no room for pretty words. They’re too free-flowing, too light, too easy to digest and slip out of your mouth. To me, pretty words are nothing but runny porridge.

With a Perspective, I’m Enya Pan.

Enya Pan lives in San Ramon.

lower waypoint
next waypoint