The Moya View

Perfectly Good Food

“It’s perfectly good food,” Wei’s mugin (mother) would say to her. “Waste not, want not,” she added to her mantra.  The chop suey of existence was her muse, art.

Today was her love letter to the dumpling, an ode to starch: a cheddar cheese scallion pierogi with a soy sauce/duck sauce/hot mustard packet drizzle culled from the kitchen utensil drawer.

Every other day was another orphan delight. Wednesday- Cream-of-anything soup. Friday- Fridge-Cleanout-Fried-Rice. Saturday, was shopping, along with Choose Your Own Leftover Vegetable Paella. It was vegetarian week.

There was that smooth jazz floating everywhere when she cooked. Coltrane syncopated slicing and dicing was her happy place.

Even her house was a leftover. She inherited it from her spinster sister when she passed away thirty years ago.

Mugin would make early morning trips to the Chinatown market to get the first Chinese chives and Bok Choy to make a soup seasoned in a ginger peel stock. For Wei, it was her favorite.

When Mugin went to visit her ancestors, Wei inherited the house and enough money to purchase an old food truck.

She would travel to every restaurant begging for the leftovers that would be thrown away. At the end of the day she would go to the farmers market to buy seconds and irregulars. She blended them into fillings and pestos, made wonderful salads from wilted greens and the best dressing ever tasted from four day old kale. And also Mugin’s dumplings.

She would setup her truck under freeway overpasses, and other abandoned areas where the homeless gathered.

Today she was stirring vegetables into a bowl of ground chicken, teasing out the last dregs from jars of chili crisp and garlic achaar. It still wasn’t enough.

She noticed a dish on the shelf above filled with packets of soy sauce. She carefully opened them into a silver bowl smelling its umami essence, watching her fingers turn brown. She cried salty Mugin tears as she added pickled ginger and its juice, and because she had no black, a dash of sherry vinegar to the bowl. She placed the chicken in the marinade, doing a flippy-dippy to ensure is was fully saturated.

The delightful smell brought the first homeless of the day to her.

“Come. Eat. Enjoy. It’s perfectly good food,” she said smiling to every one of them.





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