“Baba, I caught it! I caught it!” My feet were submerged in the creek water and as I moved my toes up and down, the greenish brown water became murky, slowly covering my feet from sight. It was a nice day. Sun rays beamed through tree branches and green leaves, leaving a light reflection on the surface of the water. My jeans, though rolled up to my shins, were wet from me diving to catch our prize for the day. I looked down and saw the large, unsightly catfish squirming in my hands, splashing droplets of cold water onto my face and arms, and couldn’t help but grin with delight. My dad, Baba, ran towards me and patted me on the head while he looked at me with an approving smile. “Good work Bei-bee! We can tell the crew how you caught their dinner when we get back,” he said as he grabbed the catfish from my palms and dropped it into an ice-filled bucket.
After a long while, we arrived at the restaurant as the crew was cleaning up for the night. Scott, my favorite waiter, had just finished setting up a large round table near the back. Baba showed every person he encountered the fish I caught with great pride as I followed him into the kitchen. I stood by his side as he prepped the fish, diced some scallions, garlic, ginger, and yellow chives, throwing all the ingredients into a big wok. The chlorine smell that once permeated through the air slowly dissipated as the aroma of garlic, scallions, chives, and rice wine drifted out from the heated wok. Patiently, I waited with great anticipation, stretching my body on tippy toes to get a few good glimpses of the contents. My stomach let out a long grumble just as Baba offered me a piece of freshly cooked fish. As I chewed slowly to preserve the flavors in my mouth, I could feel Baba’s gaze on me. His love and approval of my appreciation of food became the foundation to my growing aspiration. That night, the whole crew shared an abundance of food and drinks. The sound of chopsticks clinking with rice bowls filled the gaps between slurping and laughter. This was the very first moment I truly fell in love with food; the curious textures and smells greatly appealed to me. However, it was the comfort and joy of seeing people enjoying food together that solidified my passion. The kitchen where Baba cooked was home to me.