Cooking Chinese (1st Annual Dialogue Contest Winner)

by David Williams

"Amanda, are you listening?"


"You asked me to teach you this."

"I'm listening."

"Fine. While I'm cutting, you mix the sauce.  A tablespoon each of soy sauce, oyster sauce and sherry."

"Oyster sauce?"

"Third from the left, back row."

"Got it.  What's in this? Water, sugar, salt, oyster extractives?  Yuck."

"Just mix it, okay?"

"Just kidding.  What else?"

"A teaspoon each of cornstarch and brown sugar. I've seen better mushrooms."

"It's all they had."

"You should have checked other stores."

"Just for mushrooms?"

"A dish is only as good as its ingredients."

"Excuse me for not thinking.  Notice anything different?"


"I cut my hair."

"I liked it better longer.  Now add a teaspoon of sesame oil, a fourth cup chicken broth, and pepper."

"How much pepper?"

"To taste."

"How much? You always want it just right."

"Four turns of the pepper mill.  Can you manage that?"

"You don't have to be like that."

"This was your idea."

"But you don't have to be like that.  We never do things together any more.  And we never talk."

"What do you want to talk about?"

"Not like that.  You're mad now."

"I'm not mad."

"Well, you're not having fun."

"No.  I'm tired. I'm hungry.  And I don't know what the hell is going on.  First you want to learn to cook Chinese.  Now you want to talk.  Make up your mind.  I've got things to do."

"Fine.  Show me. We can eat and you can go do your things."

"You're sure."

"Go ahead."

"Now you're the one who's mad."

"Just show me."

"Whatever.  The key to cooking Chinese is organization and attention to details.  Are you lis­tening?"


"I couldn't tell."

"I'm listening. Details."

"Right.  You line up the ingredients in the order they go in the wok: Garlic, beef, onions and peppers, mush­rooms, sauce.  Once you start, you won't have time to look for things. See?"

"I think I get it."

"You know what I mean."

"What's next?"

"Get the wok good and hot."

"This okay?"

"No, no, highest heat."

"I was thinking about getting a job."


"I don't know, something to do."

"What about your garden?"

"Something outside this place."

"I make good money so you don't have to do any­thing.  "Here's how to do the oil."

"I'm bored here."

"Watch.  You pour the oil around the top of the wok so it runs down and coats the sides. You do two rings around."

"I tried sleeping around, but that didn't help."

"Now you turn the wok like this to coat it evenly."

"I just wore out three good men."

"You're being silly."

"I just want something to do.  You're never here."

"Here's something to do, add the garlic.  You want a job, I'm sure McDonald's is hiring. Stir it--don't let it burn. There, now the beef."

"Ooh, isn't that too hot?"

"No.  You want rice or noodles with this?"

"I don't care."

"You need to decide."

"Surprise me."

"Stir it.  This is a stir-fry.  Keep it moving.  No, no. See, it's a tossing action; down the side, through the oil, and up the other side.  If you want to keep it tender, you have to keep it moving."

"We certainly want to keep it tender."

"Here, add the veggies.  And keep it moving. No, here!"

"I can't do it like you."

"You can learn."

"Look.  I'm not some damned kid here.  You said stir, I'm stirring.  You want tossing, call it a freaking toss-fry.  It's just a damned meat and vegetable dish."

"Here we go again."

"This was supposed to be fun.  Do something together for a change.  What's wrong with that?  And, heaven forbid, maybe even talk to each other.  I don't even like Chinese food."

"Of course you like it.  You eat it all the time."

"Because you like it.  Because you like to cook it.  Have you ever asked me if I like it?" 

"This is ridiculous.  You know you like Chinese.  Now let's finish this and eat."

"You haven't heard a word I've said, have you?"

"You asked me to teach you to cook Chinese."

"I'm making some major decisions here, in case you haven't noticed."

"You want to see this or not?  You push the food up on the sides of the wok and leave room at the bottom for the sauce.  You pour it in and stir it.  Now watch. When it thickens and clears, like dark honey, it's done.  See it?"

"Yes, it's becoming clear."

"There.  It's done. Have you decided?"


"Rice or noodles."

"Yes, I've decided."

BIO: David Williams is a writer and photographer living in Kansas City, Missouri. "Cooking Chinese" is his first published fiction. He is working on his first novel. Read his blog at http://ajourneyreconsidered.blogspot.com

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