Today’s tale begins in the early 1980’s, before I was born, and before my mother had even joined my father in Ohio. As a recent grad student, my dad worked with a guy named Bob in Alliance, Ohio, and became good friends with him over the course of a few years. They went separate ways before my mother came to Ohio, though both my mother and I heard about Bob from time to time over the last 30 so years. Having heard his name enough times to remember it from my childhood, I was never aware that Bob was actually from so long ago as to have pre-dated even my mother.
After having no contact or knowledge of each other’s whereabouts for the last 30 years plus, Bob spotted my dad on the MRT in Taipei last year. They began to catch up, and discovered they both had ended up in Irvine (though at different times), then relocated to Taipei. They exchanged numbers on the metro, and have been hanging out ever since.
I can’t decide if the world is so big, that two people can go from the same small town in Ohio, to exact same city in California, to the same county in Taiwan, and not find each other for 30 years, even with the advent of the internet, Facebook, and email – or alternatively, the world (and especially the Taiwanese community) is so small, that people seem to trace very similar paths, and even if you lose someone to the great wide world-at-large, you can still find them on the Taipei metro one day, without trying at all.
Anyway, Bob heard we were in town, and took us all out to an incredibly tasty and refined lunch at Chun Shen Shi Fu (春申食府) in Taipei. At a place specializing in glazed duck, of all things. Lunch was almost relocated to a place not centered around fowl, because my mother has historically shunned eating anything that flies. However, she has for mysterious reasons eased this restriction.
The duck was reminiscent of Peking duck, with an almost-crispy glaze on the outside. It was tender, fatty (especially the skin), and juicy as hell. The duck was served with a side of thin, small, Chinese tortillas, for the lack of a better term, green opinions, cucumbers, and plum sauce, for sort of a duck taco presentation. It was really insanely delicious (thank you for embracing fowl, mom).
Every course that came was good, and there were several other notable dishes as well, including fried pork, green onion pancake, and xiao long bao. I also tried some 1,000 year egg, which I used to dislike as a child, but found pretty tasty on this occasion.
After this incredibly sumptuous and filling lunch, we decided to talk a long walk to my Uncle Alfred and Aunt Amber’s place. We stopped halfway at a playground to prevent Vale from getting too bored, and also stopped at a bakery to avoid showing up empty-handed. Taiwanese bakeries are pretty legendary, and it’s hard to walk by one without getting something. Although, don’t be fooled by the picture below – the candy cane cake things were actually not that good – a bit dry.
We hung out at my uncle’s for a while. Vale played with Jill, my youngest cousin, who is only about 5 years old. We caught up with my cousins Jean and Tanya, and Julia showed up halfway through dinner. My uncle kept the drinks flowing, including whiskey and Shao Xing wine (紹興酒), which hails from my roots in the Zhe Jiang provice of China. Shao Xing wine is dark, almost opaque, and has a smoky plum flavor to it. It’s very slightly sweet, and is served warm. Uncle Alfred busted this stuff out last time we were here as well, so I like to think this is on its way to becoming some kind of tradition.
We left the city early enough so Vale could be put to bed in a timely manner. Julia returned to San Xia with us in the Uber to continue the night. After many beers in my parents’ dining room, we walked a block down to Bear Inn for more drinks in the hotel lobby. The only beer they had on tap was Kronenbourg 1664, which was fine with us, after the preceding Belgian delights (Chimay, Delirium, Etc.).
We talked the night away and enjoyed our time together. The strange thing about cousins is, you can go years without seeing each other, and pick up right where you left off, and you can see each other three times in one week, and not run out of things to say.