Filling the Appetite of Love

(This is my translation of the Chinese piece, 就这样将爱情喂饱)

Shortly after university graduation, I had such a pursuer. To impress me, he tried to end his life. I was young then, thought this was love at its greatest, and half in sympathy, half in thanksgiving, married him. My parents only found out a week later about the union they had so sternly opposed. Despite, my loved ones gave me a handsome dowry, which I in full trust asked him to keep.

But before our honeymoon ended, he had already gambled that money away. Then, he went after my salary and pocket change, and made life mirror some novel of bleak romance, except less in romance and more in bleakness.

I was without a penny, and ran out of food. Having lost in marriage in such haste was one tiding I could not break to my family. So, everyday, I would bike home in the luxurious apparel that my folks had fashioned for my wedding. Because I had little courage to tell of my worsening situation, I would only stop by for one meal, until my parents discovered the famished look that could no longer be justified by claims of casual illness. They helped me break free from this marriage without any demands of compensation. Ashamed and resentful, I strolled from city to city. In my dreams, tears of hunger often reminded me to close the door to love.

Then, Mr. F came along. This man, in his first visit to my place, locked me out of my kitchen. As if he were the host, he fried, roasted, steamed, and broiled. Two hours later, he tabled a mouth-watering feast, and instilled in me such exhilaration with that satiating meal.

Men who love to cook are a rarity to begin with. More surprisingly, after he moved in as my roommate (I must declare that we lived in our separate rooms) Mr. F cooked every single day. We teamed up, and experimented with new recipes every meal. Our daily conversation was so predictably mundane: What’s cooking tomorrow? Are there buns left in the fridge? Are fruit supplies ample?

I fostered two homeless cats, one a crippled toddler, and the other an aging wanderer.

Mr. F made an excellent first impression on the cats, because of his title dish—steamed grass carp, a fish that he first marinated in strips of ginger, mushrooms, cooking liquor, and his secret mix of herbs. Then, powering the stove from high to low, then from low to high, he steamed the fish with his own brand of seasoning. Such heavenly delicacy—I saw my two cats perch up, though fast asleep just moments ago. With their fur standing head on end, the cats jumped up and down, meowing piercingly at the clouds that rose from the silvery steamer. When the fish made its way onto the dining table, with a second cloth of seasoning it sizzled, a sizzle that easily out-dueled the world's most pleasant music. A vapor of white ascended, enlivening the lasting savor around the room. The cats scurried about anxiously. That scene, that moment, was as much a celebration for the cats, as it was for the two of us.

Munching and chomping begged for post-meal strolls. Food was consumed more and more. Strolls lasted longer and longer. And talks brought us closer and closer. Until one day, in a casual walk, Mr. F suggested of us holding hands. I remember turning my body away from him, but... not too much. So, just one try and he caught my hand. Thereafter when we strolled, we held hands.

As you can see, I had become Mr. F’s girlfriend. In a time when we overstocked our fridge and succumbed to the yearnings of our bellies, I began learning English from him. Mr. F boasted a Level 6 in English, a genius in computers, and an excellence in his post as software engineer. Those blessed days passed by steadily. Everyday, we would find another strength that the other person held. Every day would pass in an unvoiced pact drafted by our common interests. In the end, we both ballooned up, and then started to slim down together. Up on the mountain we camped, and down in the ocean we sailed. Our travel abounded with beautiful scenery and glorious meals.

A beautiful girl who lived in a grand mansion was once troubled by nightmares of hunger -- that must have been a scene from a television show. Together with Mr. F, I never had one such dream. When my friends now see me, they all would yell at the top of their voice: “My, oh my! How you’ve changed!” Yes, that fragile girl, who had to smile through her sorrow, had grown to be healthy and confident; a pretty girl now, who has learned to smile like a sweet sunflower. Every dish, every soup, is small in itself. But, to cook them day in and day out is not an easy undertaking. That man who held his post in the kitchen, who looked past the sweat that washed down his face, seems surrounded by an aura of light, a gentle light, as if he were an angel.

So, ‘tis time to marry. Or is it? My heart says: Sigh, I am older than he. My tummy says: What's the big deal? Heart says: I’ve married but he has not. Tummy says: If he marries you, wouldn’t he have been married? Heart says: right now I’m not as financially sound as he. Tummy says: All the more reasons why you should marry him!

In the end, my tummy out-reasoned my heart. I remember that there was this lady who would always conclude: “The best way to capture a man’s heart is through his stomach.” But she did not speak of the veracity of the converse.

The ending of this story pens seamlessly into that of a fairytale: two little pigs and two kittens plump as piglets, lived happily ever after in a beautiful condo.



Tai Meng | 孟泰 | Last Updated: May 12, 2019