Every time we visit my relatives in Taiwan, we organize a special, formal dinner where we spend time together. Last time we planned a formal evening, my father arranged to have us dine at Duck and Seafood.
As an Asian, I am supposed to be fluent in Chinese, always use chopsticks, and excel in math, right? Well, no. I can barely form a sentence in Mandarin, have spilled more food than a baby because of those irritating sticks, and prefer to read rather than solve problems. It was no wonder I had little confidence of surviving in Taiwan.
Cross and sweaty because we lost our way in locating the restaurant, my family and I stepped into the reserved room and collapsed on the velvet chairs. My grandparents smiled at us and spoke, but I did not understand what they were saying.
My mother spooned some food onto my plate. “Uh, what’s that?” I poked a chopstick at a dark slice of something.
“Just don’t ask and eat it,” my older brother advised.
When no one was looking, I wrapped it up in a paper napkin and nonchalantly dropped it into the trash basket reserved for the inedible scraps of crab and fish. How my great-grandparents would whip me for wasting food! I shook off the thought as I watched my two younger cousins adding the classic glasses and mustache onto everyone’s face in the photo that we had just taken. My generation had gone far beyond disgrace.
All the adults and my sister who had studied a little Chinese in college suddenly broke into laughter.
“What? What’s so funny?” I had attempted to follow the conversation earlier but only picked up a little here and there, so I gave up.
My brother shrugged and turned his attention to his plate again. My father joked and caused the adults to chuckle again while my uncle popped another metal cap off a beer bottle. I sighed.
In my bowl of soup, tiny anchovies floated unsteadily. They reminded me of our poor goldfish when we neglected to feed them. Millions of round black eyes peered up at me from the bowl. Goosebumps ran down my arms, and I shuddered. Wanting to avoid a sharp scolding from my parents, I sipped a little.
“Maybe I can fill up on cake later,” I figured. I looked up and accidentally made eye contact with my grandmother.
“Katie, you didn’t eat any of the clam or crab. Here!” and with that, she dumped a heap of seafood on my plate.
Not even the president could persuade my grandmother that my family ate enough. When shopping, my grandmother would walk in a zigzag pattern down the street, pause at a vendor, comment on the price in loud tones, and then buy a whole bagful of fruit or meat. My mother and I accompanied her on her strolls mainly to carry all of her purchases.
The red arm of the crustacean dwarfed my plate. I resigned myself to the miserable fate and popped a forkful into my mouth and quickly swallowed. I had to stuff it down or invite another comment on my pickiness. With difficulty, I finished most of the food on my plate.
At last the evening was over. We each departed with many good wishes, hugs, and promises to visit again. In the car, my dad looked apologetically at me.
“Oh, Katie. I forgot to tell you that we were going to stop by a bakery on our way home, so you didn’t have to eat any seafood!”
Photo Credit: http://www.earthandtablelawreporter.com/2016/05/24/910/