A Sichuan Diaspora Daughter’s Kitchen

by Yilin Wang

Yilin Wang (she/they) is a writer, editor, and Chinese-English translator. Her writing has appeared in Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, The Malahat Review, Grain, CV2, The Toronto Star, Words Without Borders, and elsewhere. Yilin has been a two-time finalist for the Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction, a finalist for the David TK Wong Fellowship, longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize, and the recipient of a 2021 ALTA Virtual Travel Fellowship. Her translations have appeared or are forthcoming in The Puritan, Asymptote, LA Review of Books’ China Channel, Samovar, Pathlight, and the anthology The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories (Tor.com). She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop (2021).



 
You must teach yourself how to carry loan words,
tiny seeds gift-wrapped like hand-me-down
heirlooms as you crisscross past borders.
How do you cook a dish called 虎皮辣椒,
Hu Pi La Jiao, “Tiger-Skin Hot Peppers,”
when you only have bell peppers?
No planting guides exist for foreign veggies
that haven’t yet grown roots and sprouted
overseas. No family recipes readied you
for the meandering map of codeswitching
from Sichuanhua to academic Mandarin
to every shade of English accent.
You grow spicy green syllables in clay pots
on a west-facing balcony with
never enough heat. Nourish them
with cloudy water you collected after
washing rice, a habit you picked up from
Wai Gong, who once lugged buckets uphill
from the changing shorelines of the Yangtze.
You name your potted creations
after imaginary friends, spirits left behind
when you boarded your first flight alone
at age eleven, a one-way ticket to Vancouver
with no return date. New peppers grow to
bursting, light sparks teasing your tongue
without setting it on fire. You pair
homegrown words with slang, ground pork
from a local butcher, the twice-removed cousin
of meat sellers disappearing from former alleys.
Add three spoons of soy sauce idioms. Sprinkle
a fistful of garlic and sugar-coated words. Marinate
phrases with salty grammar and a pinch
of allusions to break the syntax of
rule-inventors disguised as rule-breakers.
Throw in three times the laoganma chili sauce
you think you need, then add another spoonful
just in case. Wait for the flavours to seep in,
so you can 打牙祭, dayaji, make an offering
for the cracks between your teeth.
You’re always, always hungry.


Yilin Wang (she/they) is a writer, editor, and Chinese-English translator. Her writing has appeared in Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, The Malahat Review, Grain, CV2, The Toronto Star, Words Without Borders, and elsewhere. Yilin has been a two-time finalist for the Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction, a finalist for the David TK Wong Fellowship, longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize, and the recipient of a 2021 ALTA Virtual Travel Fellowship. Her translations have appeared or are forthcoming in The Puritan, Asymptote, LA Review of Books’ China Channel, Samovar, Pathlight, and the anthology The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories (Tor.com). She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop (2021).

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