Comfort Food for the Trampled Soul

We pull our chopsticks from their wax paper wrappers, snap them apart and graze them against one another, like twigs starting a fire or iron sharpening iron, to smooth out the splinters while our food steams and cooks in the kitchen.

I turn the English and pinying side of the menu over to the real menu, the one my friend reads. I search the code for familiar symbols. She points to the boxes, lines and curves that she’s just spoken softly for our waitress, and teaches me how to recognize the characters. I keep up the work on the chopsticks while I practice my Chinese. Curls of wood settle on the worn table. I flip the menu over to my cheat sheet and then back again to study the hanzi.

First, the waitress brings out a plate of snow peas. Then, another of stir-fried eggs and tomatoes. And my friend tells me how her grandparents made this for her in the countryside where she spent her girlhood sick in bed.

I lean closer to hear her faint voice. I focus my eyes on her mouth, reading her lips as she ekes out the words from her trampled soul. She winces always, as if something is coming right for her, and now I’m starting to understand why. Her parents had sent her away, their one child a disappointment on the Darwinian scale, barely surviving, unfit.

I look out the door of the restaurant at the wooden crate, a rickety step upholstered in red carpet. Yarny fibers collapse under the load of automobile crud, spittle and vegetable scraps. I hear her meaning through the language gap. She bends under her own load, wondering if she’s born to be trodden underfoot.

We dig our chopsticks into the comfort food and scrape it into our bowls, onto soft beds of white rice. Her words come out quiet like a prayer filtered into a feathery pillow.

“But when I see the film,” she recalls scenes from the movie based on Luke’s telling of Jesus’ ministry, “how He loves the sick…I am very surprised- very surprised!”

I lay my chopsticks across the rice bowl. I picture my friend laying down on her cot in the countryside, mostly dead like Jairus’ daughter, except my friend didn’t have a daddy calling out to Jesus for her.

But Jesus, He who laid down his own life to raise her up, He found her nonetheless.

Here she is across the table telling me about Him with her round face like the moon reflecting some distant glory. She clasps her hands over her heart. And I have to do the like. I bring my hand first to rest on my chest and then to cover my mouth. I want to say His name out loud in the middle of this place that is scared of Him. If only they knew His meekness, quietness, how He changes the diagnosis with a gentle touch.

“He sees you,” I tell her, “He knows your need.” She  feels this already and opens her eyes, not wincing like before.

We put our smoothed-out chopsticks to work. Ginger and sesame oil trickle from our comfort food, hit the taste buds and slide to the core, nourishing. She is quickened, suddenly feeling her worth under the care of our Great Physician.

 

{Happy Chinese New Year! Below is an authentic recipe for Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes. A friend in China taught me how to make this simply delicious comfort food the way her family makes it at home.}

Stir-Fried Eggs & Tomatoes

6 eggs
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
olive oil
1/2 inch of fresh ginger, grated
1 clove of garlic, chopped
sea salt
scallions (optional)
ripe red tomato, roughly chopped

Beat the eggs with sesame oil or water and season with a dash or two of sea salt.
In frying pan, heat olive oil on medium heat.
Stir-fry ginger, garlic, salt and scallions in oil for about a minute, being careful not to burn.
Add tomatoes and stir-fry for about a minute.
Pour egg mixture in and stir until the eggs set.

Serve over rice. We use germinated brown rice when my hubby’s not home and white Basmati rice when he is. :) Serve alongside sauteed garlic green beans or stir-fried broccoli or bok choi.

2 thoughts on “Comfort Food for the Trampled Soul

  1. The metaphor of the carpeted crate is so moving. We all have brokenness beneath the surface. I’m so glad you traveled to the ends of the earth to reach this downtrodden girl. What a delight to know she heard about the Great Physician! I’m thankful every day for His care in my own life.

    • I think those of us who grow up knowing Jesus and having the text of his ministry before our eyes on a daily basis and who grow up in our culture where in comparison the sick aren’t considered throwaways, we may miss the wow factor of Jesus’ miracles, not just the reality that he healed illness and disease, but that He did so with such great compassion, paying attention and kneeling down to be with the trampled, even at the risk of His own social standing. My friend’s amazement helped me feel anew the wonder of that truth.

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