Kelvin Han Yee reading an excerpt from The Last Chinese Chef, presented by Stories on Stage, Denver, CO, 10/15/06
The excerpt many readers have chosen as their favorite.
She plucked a morsel from the right side of the bird, low on the breast where the moistness of the thigh came in, and tasted it. It was soft as velvet, chicken times three, shot through with the ginger and the note of onion. Small sticks of bone, their essence exhausted, crumbled in her mouth. She passed them into her hand and dropped them on the plate. “But it’s perfect,” she said. “All chicken should be cooked that way, all the time. I may never have tasted anything so good.”
“I mean it.” She bit into another piece, succulent, soft, perfected. It made her melt with comfort. It put a roof over her head and a patterned warmth around her so that even though all her anguish was still with her it became, for a moment, something she could bear. She closed her eyes in the bliss of relief. She finished and passed out the bones. “Are you going to make this for the banquet?” “No,” he said. “This I made for you.” She looked up quickly. “These are flavors for you, right now,” he explained, “to benefit you. Ginger and cilantro and chives; they’re very powerful. Very healing.” “Healing of what?” she said, and put her chopsticks down. She felt his human force suddenly, as if he were standing quite close to her instead of sitting across the counter, and she sat up in apprehension.
“Grief,” he said.
Grief? The unpleasant nest of everything she felt pressed up against the surface: sadness, shame, anger at Matt. Anger at Sam for presuming, for intruding; gratitude to Sam for those same things. Her voice, when it came out, sounded bewildered. “You’re treating me for grief?”
“No,” he insisted. “I’m cooking for you. There’s a difference.”
– The Last Chinese Chef