People all over the world love rice. It’s an inexpensive and versatile food enjoyed by billions. However, this article was inspired by a rice bowl. After all, it's necessary to have something to hold the rice.
As I took the old rice bowl out of the cupboard, a flood of memories suddenly washed over me. I remember the day mom bought the small bowl. If you hold it up to the light, you can see the pattern of grains of rice that were pressed into the sides of the bowl before it was fired in the kiln. Once fired, the grains are burned up leaving small translucent spots in the bowl. It’s very clever.
Blue was my mother’s favorite color. So, of course, the bowls had to be blue. I let the flood of memories carry me back to San Francisco’s Chinatown on the warm, sunny day she bought the bowls. Well, it was warm by San Francisco standards. At that time we lived only a few hours’ drive from San Fran and liked to go there as often as possible. It really is a beautiful, world-class city.
The memories continued to flow. It was my only uncle, my dad’s younger brother, who first took us to Chinatown. He lived in the Bay Area most of his adult life, settling there and raising a family after WW2. He also made an excellent tour guide and knew all the best places to go. "I must take you to the North China Restaurant," he declared during one of our visits. I think that was my first visit to a truly authentic Chinese restaurant. It was located on the second floor of a rather nondescript building on a busy Chinatown street. I’ve never forgotten the sights and sounds of that place and the tantalizing aromas. After my uncle died, we continued to go there every time we visited San Fran.
When mom bought the four bowls. I wasn’t particularly enamored with them. She picked out some Asian soup spoons as well. I remember thinking how difficult it was to eat soup from those big spoons. After a few laughs at our awkward attempts, we discovered that it’s best to sip the soup from the end of the spoon instead of the sides. We made a mess, but our Chinese waiter just smiled and went about his business like it was all in a day's work.
Learning to eat rice with chopsticks is another story altogether. I laughed out loud at the thought. Then I noticed a chip in the base of one of the bowls and on the rim of another. My feelings turned to chagrin. I wondered how that happened. I already knew the answer. Since I wasn't fond of them, I was never particularly careful handling the bowls. At least not until now. But the passage of time can change perspective. The bowls have become very beautiful. I've lost mom to memories, and I definitely didn’t want to lose the bowls. But I’ve come to that point in my life when it no longer makes sense to put things away for future occasions. Now I use the rice bowls just about every day. They make my breakfast oatmeal seem quite elegant. And if I stop to think about the history of the bowl in front of me, it quickly becomes a bowl full of memories. What a lovely way to begin the day.