Subtle love

by Kim Thuy

Nonstop (Issue III/2019)

I know the Vietnamese word for sadness, but I have no terms for melancholy or nostalgia. I can only express these nuances in other languages, mostly in French since this is my language of emotions. I've never heard my parents say “I love you,” even though that's undoubtedly the case. Feelings are expressed through food preparation. My mother shows her affection by cooking and bringing food to her loved ones. Also in Vietnamese you never say: “I am angry with you”. No, we serve food. When someone you don't like comes to visit, you serve it in a very specific way. It's good food, but the person will know for sure that they have been offended. Very subtle, of course. For example, my cousin was always a womanizer. His wife knew that, of course. But instead of asking him to speak, she prepared dinner every evening and waited for him. When he showed up at three in the morning, wondering that she hadn't eaten yet, she said, “I was waiting for us to eat together.” He felt terrible and came home earlier in the future.

 Kim Thúy's books can be found here 

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