‘Between the Black and White’: G major

“Between the Black and the White” explores different moods and feelings in daily life. It is organized into different keys that set the tone for each specific piece. It tries to capture the microscopic stories of life and zoom in to examine every detail.

I was standing in line for the Asian special at Wilbur Dining. The crowded and bustling atmosphere drowned me. It took me back to my childhood, when my parents and I used to roam the department stores during sale periods. 

It was the same kind of bustling, the same kind of static, passive hurriedness, the same kind of anoxia that would make my face blush. In the department stores, the shelves were filled with dazzling arrays of products, everything from toys to self-care products to water bottles. The sound of people talking like waves in the ocean; it enclosed me, leaving me breathless and flushed. I must have brushed past hundreds of people in search of my childhood favorite snack, the marshmallow, that was always placed at the very end. Meeting and missing every stranger on my way — no one was ever able to hold onto one another, managing at most just a nod or a smile. It is funny how we call it fate not yet arrived. 

The smell of the orange chicken takes me back to the present. Too impatient to wait, I gobbled a piece of chicken from the edge of the plate and took a big bite. Ah, too sweet. Too sweet that it loses sincerity.

Indeed, California is a land of sweetness. Coffee and milk are sweet; strawberries and mandarins are sweet; the sunshine is sweet; the little clouds sweetly decorate the sky in a lightning shape and even the drizzle has a sweet purity. This sweetness is mystical, unknown, unlike the taste of pure sugar. It lingers on my face, with a bittersweetness that is unfathomable, a flavor that cannot be fully savored. Perhaps we can call it “gan,” which in Mandarin translates to a flowing beauty, but it’s a sweetness beyond “gan”; a sweetness akin to the innocence and joy of youth. It is a mixture of maybe 40% the sweetness of the sunrise, 30% the sweetness of the sunset and 30% the sweetness of the stars. 

A chef toasts marshmallows for one of tonight’s special dishes, and I am reminded of lining up for the marshmallow in the amusement park as a child. I still remember how every time I finished the ride for the highest roller coaster, my parents would take me to the marshmallow stall next to the exit of the roller coaster ride. I would wait impatiently, sticking my head out to peek at the magic that the chef was performing — how he would take out a stick, add sugar, swirl the stick and then somehow the marshmallow grows bigger and bigger in monstrous colors and grotesque shapes. He would then bend down and hand the stick to children in front of me with a mysterious smile. I always asked the chef to make me one in the shape of the dragon that has wings. For me, the dragon symbolizes the utmost magic of the world, the one who guards the virtues against the evils. The chef would always nod and hand me a marshmallow in a very similar shape as to the other customers. Yet I always imagined that the one he made for me was unique, that it nevertheless had a “dragon” quality  I would meticulously hold the marshmallow, which was the size of my little head, and curiously lick the outer white parts of the fluffy animal, as though taming it, imagining myself to be a dragon trainer. 

Now, as I lick the marshmallow sitting in Wilbur Dining, I still feel empowered by it. It is as though these memories of the past have supported me and made me who I am, through tangible and intangible ways. Food has memory and is a record of memory, the treasures of our tasting buds that store all those precious moments of us. 

Originally posted 2023-05-12 02:29:42.