People say childhood are the best years of a person’s life.
I absolutely agree but the sad thing is I only got to experience three years of it (age 3 to 6). Let’s face it, can we really remember what we did when we were two? The good thing is that I got to experience it before it was violently yanked from me.
In 1997, about a year after my father passed away, mother and I moved into our new apartment at the edge of town. The new apartment was much bigger than the previous one plus it had some modern upgrades too. The kitchen-dining came with a breakfast bar and there was even a bathroom with a western-style sit-down toilet.
After we moved in, we rarely cooked at home. Mom didn’t really know how to cook back then. For breakfast, lunch, and even dinner, I often rode on the back of her scooter and we would go either to a small cafeteria style restaurant on the street or a traditional restaurant. There we would order something random. For breakfast, we often bought dim-sum to-go from a restaurant. Then savor it at home without the crowd and the noise.
After she left for the United States and I went to live with my aunt, I’ve mostly been stuck at home. Only on occasion did we went out for breakfast.
By the end of the 90’s and early 2000’s, fast food restaurants began to appear in my hometown. Slowly, I began to notice the golden arches on TV commercials and advertisement billboards. Soon after that McDonald, a KFC and Pizza Hut was followed.
By that time, during my free time, my aunt would dump me off to a nanny a couple blocks away. It was supposed to be my grandfather but he had refused, claiming I was a troublemaker. I am still not sure what trouble I have caused them.
Even my nanny said I was a handful.
From time to time, when the nanny wasn’t available, her daughter-in-law would pick me from school instead. She has a son who often would complain to be hungry. Then she would take me along with her son for a little indulgence for his son. That’s how I found out about fast food, by the way.
She took me to McDonald once. I was to go upstairs and find a seat along with babysitting the little boy. Actually, he wasn’t little. He was only two years younger than me but together, I looked like the girl version of Harry Potter and he looked like Dudley.
A few minutes later, his mother came upstairs carrying a plastic tray. On it was a single colorful paper bag. Let me guess, I’m to sit awkwardly while watching her son devour the entire kid’s meal.
It was an insanely awkward 30 minutes for me. His mother and I didn’t say a word. She didn’t apologize for not asking me if I was hungry or if I wanted anything but whatever, I was used to it. I didn’t even look at her. Instead, I focused on my surroundings, kids running around playing a game of make-believe with their plastic toys. I think I had more fun watching that than watching someone eating before me.
From that moment, I almost became obsessed with my desire to try just a little taste of french fries, just a little of fast food. Eventually, I did. One day, the boy’s mother invited me to KFC and bought me some chicken tenders. I wasn’t sure what to make of this but my desire took over. I took one bite of the chicken tenders and it was like I went to heaven. It was like the best thing I’ve ever tasted. It was unbelievable! How could someone had hidden such wonderful food from me?
Alas, a few weeks or months later, my aunt and uncle couldn’t leave me home. So I had no choice but to go with them to one of their family dinner. It was held at Pizza Hut. They had reserved a large booth, large enough to sit everyone. I was so excited at that point since I have never tried pizza. When the server finally delivered the pizzas before us, I brought a slice to my plate and took a bite. Except I couldn’t. It was like biting into rubber. I couldn’t even tear it apart. Essentially, that was the end of my venture with fast food in China. Pizza ruined everything for me. It created a new fear in my head, fear of eating pizza.