Friday, June 4, 2010

Rice in a Jar

"Is love rice in a jar, no need to give back an egg?"

I really liked The Joy Luck Club; then I liked The Kitchen God's Wife even more; and The Hundred Secret Senses even more than that. Good Better Best. (The Bonesetter's Daughter, not so much; but that's okay.) In all these novels, Amy Tan has created so many moments of pure magic, you might find it difficult to choose a favorite, but for me it's easy: Chapter 12 in The Hundred Secret Senses: "The Best Time To Eat Duck Eggs."

In this chapter, Kwan tells Libby about the thousand-year duck eggs, buried years before in her previous life as Miss Moo, when she shared an understated romance with the peddler, Zeng who provided her with empty canning jars for storing the lime-cured eggs. Each week they exchange these tokens: a jar for Miss Moo and an egg for Zeng, until times get hard and food of any kind, including eggs, has become scarce. Even though Miss Moo no longer has any pickled eggs to share, kindly Zeng proffers the jar, this time not empty but filled with rice to see her through the lean stretch. She is overwhelmed by his generosity: "So heavy with feelings! Was this love? Is love rice in a jar, no need to give back an egg?" (181).

To answer Kwan's question: Yes! That's love, pure and simple, no strings attached, no angle, no need to give back an egg. Love in the open hand, wishing to help, wishing not to hurt.

For more on this theme see
my current post "Love In The Open Hand"
my fortnightly literary blog
of connection and coincidence

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