Full-filled: Snacks After School

Amy Wang, Editor-in-Chief

Forget shrieking laughter as I tumbled down a hill in a hot fit of Tag. Forget the soft backsplash of sunlight rippling in the deep end of the pool as my dad taught me how to swim, though those moments are indelible too. More than anything else, my softest childhood memory is a taste. My afternoons from first grade to seventh are like beads on a long string, clattering one after the other. Sometimes it was fresh-cut fruit platters, sometimes it was handmade dumplings, sometimes bowls of fried rice. Always, they were arranged by hand, by my mother, or my grandmother, or my dad.

My family’s love language is food. For my parents, who grew up without a similar level of material wealth as they’re now able to provide to my brother and me, to have enough is to be enough. At one point, every meal I had was home-cooked, and at least part of it was homegrown in our backyard. Whenever my little brother or I craved niangao or jianbing, all we had to do was tug gently on the sleeves of one of the adults near us, and a day or two after, our request would appear on a plate, either steaming hot or glistening with sweetness.

Still, as we’ve gotten older, and everyone has gotten busier, our meals have become more slapdash. I understand why, of course, zongzi are now reserved for Duan Wu Jie only, and why we only get to eat mooncakes when it’s the mid-Autumn festival. Everything moves more quickly now, and the magic has faded from meals.

One recent afternoon though, it returned. After taking off my backpack and jacket in the front entryway, I was delighted by the fragrant smell of braised beef and spices. My mom, having heard me ask my dad to pretty please buy some beef jerky the next time he went to Costco, had taken the time out of her busy schedule to try to recreate a spicy, sesame-sprinkled version of it that I’d once declared my favorite.

In my mouth, it was a little dry, a little tough. I could feel the hard grooves of where she’d forgotten to turn them over, the uneven spread of chili oil and sesame seed. And yet it was perfect to me. I know that this time next year, I won’t be able to enjoy the same closeness with my family, the same ability to reach across a table and feel my mom’s hand in mine. So it’s moments—tastes—like these, that I’ll have to try and savor all the more slowly before I leave home. For now at least, I’m still lucky enough to have them.