28 August 2011

welcome to our home

In Chengdu there's a magical apartment full of chili oil and fresh vegetables, tofu chunks and fire. It's easy to walk past and not know that you have a standing invitation to visit. That you're welcome to come in and eat at their table.

This is a place that people tell friends about in near whispers. As in, don't tell a bunch of other people because then the retired couple that runs this little restaurant - and lives here - might be overwhelmed and then our favorite lunch place won't be the same.

This husband and wife have a flow in the kitchen. And with the kitchen being a small stretch of a place there's not much room to stray from the plan, which seems to be to take the fresh things that line the shelves and turn them into wonders.

I want to spend more time watching them in the kitchen. Watching the way the wife preps the ingredients and lines them along the windowsill. The way the husband takes them in a certain correct order and uses two woks and fire to make them delicious.

At one point, as I watched the husband cook, the chili had so overcome our shared cloud of breath that I choked back a cough, afraid to insult the finished product by seeming weak. Truly, each and every dish they turned out was worthy of appreciation.

We ate in an outside patio, under a loose tent. Accompanying our group were vats of chili pickle baking in the August sun and an oscillating fan. Each time the breeze from that fan made its way back to me, my heart nearly skipped a beat. Each time I ate a bite of the food, it skipped two.

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