Growing up in the Wu household with a father who was once a chef at a Chinese restaurant in Canada, I was exposed to REAL Chinese food. However, I turned up my nose to such food. As an ABC (American-Born Chinese), the ONLY Chinese food I craved and wanted was from the greasy hole-in-the-wall take-out Chinese restaurant close to our red brick house. My menu was predictable: chicken with broccoli, pork spare ribs, egg drop soup, and fluffy white steamed rice. I was also as ‘American’ as could be as I ate with a fork and knife over a pair of ivory chopsticks and gorging on Velveeta Mac N’ Cheese over a bowl of piping hot noodles. To make life easier for my dad, he did not argue with me and just gave in to my very specific and limited taste requests.
My persnickety taste buds were forced to come to a halt in the summer of 1992 when I went to live with my aunt and her family in Canada. In her sunlit kitchen with a yellow canary that whistled while she prepped and cooked food, I was exposed to live blue crabs, pink salmon, soya sauce and sesame oil, slivers and slices of ginger, and other odd concoctions that I scrunched up my face in fear and disgust. I made it clear that the ONLY food I wanted my aunt to make was her signature spaghetti that was a unique and tasty blend of saucy and spicy.
I still remember when my aunt put a bowl of steaming rice and what looked like a pink blob to me in front of my face. That pink blob turned out to be salmon.
“I don’t want to try it,” I whined with my arms crossed over my chest.
“How are you supposed to know if you like or not like something until you try it?” my aunt asked me.
I paused and tried to come up with a quick-witted response.
My aunt said, “You won’t know until you try. Here, try.”
She gave me a pair of chopsticks. I was 10-years-old and did not even know how to use chopsticks. I struggled to pick up the slippery fish. I finally resorted to spearing a piece on the chopstick. I wrinkled my nose and tentatively bit into the fleshy pink salmon drenched in fermented and black as ink soya sauce. Salty, chewy, fleshy and fatty….it was absolutely delicious!!! My eyes lit up like lights on a Christmas tree. It was the most delicious piece of meat I have ever had. Not to mention that it was incredibly pretty in pink.
After that summer, I was an adventuring risk-taker with food to try everything and anything. Gone were the days of typical and predictable chicken and broccoli, spare ribs, and egg drop soup. In were the days of abalone, shark fin soup, sea cucumbers jellyfish, pork belly, dumplings, fried rice, plump udon noodles, bok choy, shrimp, hot chili sauce, and a vast array of flavors and tastes that I was falling in love with. My father and all my relatives were excited as I was psyched to be a guinea big. Bring on the experimentation!
Since then and with many other experiences I lived through, I am bold and fearless to try anything and everything. I was open to screwing up, making mistakes, and flying to either take flight or fall flat on my face in failures. We learn from our trials, failures, mistakes, risks, errors, and experimentation in process. When I’ve fallen and fallen hard, I find myself saying that at least I tried. At least I know now. At least I’ll know going forward to try not to repeat history and to make my future. My trying, learning, and knowing are my successes. Of course, this is all easy to write down and I do not minimize the feelings of crap, screw up, and mess up that I have and we all feel. I just do not want to live a limited life of impossibilities; I want to live a limitless life of possibilities. My aunt’s words have stuck with me: “You won’t know until you try.
There is a fine balance of experimenting, taking risks, and trying even with the knowledge that we could fail and fall hard and when we actually do fail. But, do we ever really fail if we tried? What is failure and what is success? Would you consider yourself a risk taker? Are risk-taking and trying along the same lines? When have you tried and failed miserably, only to get back up again and try again until you got it right?
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,