It’s mid-morning when I got to the wet market to get this fresh bunch of Chinese chives and pork tenderloin, and there was one last ingredient to check out. The street was by no means spacious, and there were stalls selling all sorts of groceries along both sides of the road. Shoppers had to make way from time to time for trams to pass by. I arrived the noodle shop where they sold fresh, raw noodles and dumpling wrappers. The lady grabbed a stack of round dumpling wrappers and weighed it on a vintage balance covered by a serious dust of flour. I paid for the wrappers she put in a small tight-fit plastic bag and left for home.
I washed and drained the chives and cut them into fine brunoise. I diced up the tenderloin and then slowly mince it. It was quiet. On top of the sound made from chopping, there were birds and cicada chirping, brief noise from engines from scattered cars passing by. Sounds were fleeting, so was the fragrance from white jade orchid flower, but they stayed in my living room, while I wrapped the pork and chives into dumplings.
Having lived in this neighbourhood for a good few years, I smelled this faint white jade orchid every year during the brief course between spring and summer. Yet, I’ve never seen the tree.
Dumplings were done. I heated up a pan, drizzled some oil, put in the freshly wrapped dumplings and patiently pan-fried them in medium heat. You like potstickers cooked crispy, and I like my dumplings cooked in soup and eat them with chili oil. But it didn’t matter. I would just cook them the way you liked. With a tray of dumplings, two small bowls, two pairs of chopsticks, a kitchen cloth and a can of coke, we enjoyed our lunch out there under the sun.
Spring was pardoned, and the summer heat hung in the air. Your face was drenched in sweat while eating, and I dried it with my paper napkin. One night, we went for a late supper. Your face was so covered with sweat that drop of sweat clinging on your nose tip almost dripped into your noodle. Looking at that silly face, I reminded myself to bring Kleenex for you from now on. Sometimes when I forgot to, I’d just wipe your face dry with my blue cotton scarf, or, my bare hand. You were always startled with my casual acts Somehow.
I put the last dumpling in your bowl. You halved it and put a piece into my bowl. I wrapped up the used bowls and trays in the kitchen cloth, and set for return.
“The mid-afternoon sunlight is so gentle.” I said.
“You are the gentle one” You replied with some delay.
I had been pondering what gentleness was.
Is it because I’m quiet? Or is it because how lightly I caressed your face?
Neither. It’s because how one contains pain. The pain of one’s own and others.
It is when one has profoundly experienced pain and sorrow, reconciled the grieve, and have
it assimilated to become one’s compassion. You wrap up your own wounds, and wish no
lives should bear the same as yours.
Sometimes, I imaged in times of sorrow, I could still hug you in my arms and kiss on your
forehead, whispering to you that “Don’t worry.” I still believed the days ahead will get
better. Gentleness is knowing how to wrap your pain and turn it into love.
It is, at the end of the day, a strong soul that can be gentle.
豬柳梅肉 800克、韮菜 350克、餃子皮 800克、鹽 3茶匙、糖 1小撮、食油 1茶匙、麻油 半茶匙、水 半碗
Ingredients (Yield about 36 dumplings):
Pork Tenderloin 800 grams, Chinese Chives 350 grams, Dumpling Wrappers 800 grams, Sea Salt 3 teaspoons, Sugar A pinch, Cooking oil 1 teaspoon, Sesame oil ½ teaspoon, Water ½ bowl
- Dice up the pork, and mince it.
- Wash and drain the chives, finely cut them into small pieces
- Add salt and sugar to the pork and chives, and mix them in the same direction.
- Add cooking oil and sesame oil to the above mixture, and mix them in the same direction.
- Put a spoonful of filling in the centre of a dumpling wrapper. Dap some water along the wrapper rim.
- Fold it into a half-moon and pinch the centre of the seam. Pleat 2 sides of the seam towards the centre.
- Pinch and seal the pleats.
It’s raining outside, crisp and bleak. Three chubby sparrows took shelter on my balcony and I gave them the baguette bits left on my breakfast plate but they flew away. I stayed in, played Damien Rice on vinyl and made apple crumble. Repeat.