After carrying all the groceries to the third floor, I dump them on the counter, and I am at a loss of what to do. Tears and snot run down my face. Then a memory of my mom in the kitchen pops into my head, and my tears trickle to a halt.

Every Sunday morning, my mom and I walked to the wet market with two big canvas bags and a little trolley. While weaving through the crowd in the wet market, I could feel the air vibrate as the vendors hollered at us. As I tried to avoid people to keep up with her, she was already at the fruit vendors. She passed an apple to me and said, “A pretty apple is a good apple. The heavier the better.” She then hopped over to the vegetable vendors and bought some Chinese broccoli. She always bantered with them for free green onions. When I turned around, she started to rush to the chicken vendors. I followed the clucking sounds and the trail of feathers to locate her. The chicken she picked was screaming bloody murder and trying to escape the strong grip of the vendor. A few minutes later, the chicken was plucked and gutted in a plastic bag. Without hesitation, she was on the move to the seafood vendors. The closer we got, the more I had to jump over puddles and avoid flopping fish on the ground. She picked out a slab of fish belly with chunks of fat, and the vendor swiftly scaled and cleaned it. The fish still flinched rustling the plastic bag. Not far away, the fishy smell was replaced by the aroma of savory barbecue. Shiny roasted geese and ducks were hung on a rack at the storefront. She knew it was a torture for me to carry the roasted goose home, so she got me a bag of marinated pig ears as a snack.

She slowly hauled everything to the bus station, and I followed her while chomping on the pig ears. After getting off the bus, we still had a ten-minute incline glute workout to get home. She instantly squeezed herself into a miniature kitchen before taking her shoes off. The apartment was filled with the aroma of garlic, ginger, and green onion emanating from the kitchen. Whenever I peeped into the kitchen, a giant clay pot was always on the stove with broth brimming over. A meal is not complete without broth, and she always added different herbal medicine depending on the seasons and illness.

When my mom brought out all the dishes, I could barely wait. The white steamed fish belly was glistening in oil in contrast to the green onion and dark soy sauce. Nothing tastes better with hot white rice drizzled in the fish soy sauce along with garlicky Chinese broccoli. My favorite was to clean all the bone meat on a chicken. We always finished with a bowl of broth and some fruits. I was usually the last one to finish my food, and my dad always reminded me to eat every single grain of rice. Sometimes he quoted a poem on the hardship of rice farmers. My grandma was so serious that she had me memorize the poem as a child.

My growling stomach brings me back to the pile of groceries. I wipe my tears off and pull my sleeves up. A few hours later, I serve stir-fried broccoli with garlic and baked chicken wings in five spices. I am shocked when my husband takes two bites of a wing and throws it aside. I give him a judging look and say, “You need to clean the wings because that chicken died for you.” I also quote the poem and remind him to clean his plate. Now we compete on who is better at cleaning wings, and I still win.

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