Whenever I make a bowl of wonton soup, I will think of R. When I first came to America as a graduate student, R was my roommate from Eastern Europe. In America, we all live in our own communities and it’s unusual for an Asian girl like me to team up with a girl like R. However the special circumstance dictated that we were both newcomers, each looking for a place to stay at the beginning of the semester, and we happened to meet at an apartment complex.
That’s certainly friendship at first sight. Probably because we both like literature, we found a lot to talk about. Isn’t that strange? I mean I felt our friendship so odd since among our friends, her friends would not look at me and my friends would not talk with her. They all felt odd that we live “together”. At night, we would talk and talk. Somehow I felt like I was back home with friends I grew up with.
Somehow she’s a big fan of Shakespeare, but I am not. As a non-native speaker, Shakespeare’s lines are too un-English-like to me, though I enjoy online lectures on Shakespeare–those lectures are English-like, fortunately. And she talked about Othello repeatedly, for reasons I couldn’t understand. Her boyfriend at the time didn’t want to come to America. Instead he opted to go to a big city in EU to do his research. Probably R had a hidden rage in her to … I don’t want to speculate further. It’s too terrible to imagine such a thing.
Now come back to wonton soup. This was within the first several weeks we met. I was cooking a wanton soup and she suddenly said to me, “I am surprised you can find anything to buy in the supermarket. Your food is completely different.” She was eating yogurt she made herself, but I don’t eat milk product. She didn’t understand how people like me exist. I said I drink soy milk, but she didn’t think soy is a milk in the first place. The only Asian food she had ever tasted and liked was General Tso’s chicken. She thought that one day I could cook the dish for her. I couldn’t help laughing. I said that’s American food and I don’t know how to cook that.
She thought Genghis Khan was a savage and I had to defend my ancestor, probably a little over zealously; I thought Sultans of Ottoman Empire were even worse savages, but she defended them enthusiastically.
The wanton soup I am cooking now is really simple since my interest in cooking has been declining since the days I knew R. Just add chicken stock, add seaweed and spinach and sprouts. Bring everything to a boil. Add Trader Joe’s Chicken Cilantro Mini Wontons–already defrosted in the microwave. Low heat, barely boiling for ten minutes. That’s it.
Time passes, season changes. Things come and go; jobs here and there. Vicissitudes of life, high and low; friends from afar, live in my heart forever.