On the island of Formosa, now known as Taiwan, the mélange of Chinese and Japanese cultures came together in the bountiful offerings of streetside eateries. Island people are smart, they share resources because scarcity is a fact of life. There are shops that operate as breakfast eateries by day, and noodle shops by night. Entrepreneurs who can't get into a space setup streetside vending from 9:00 pm to 3:00 am to carry on the third shift. Eating is a 24x7 enterprise.
During my return to Taiwan for work in the 90's, I reconnected with my childhood friend, the only link to my roots after emigrating to the States. We are still in touch after 40 some years. I sense my aging wisdom, but I still feel the joys and pains of youth. My favorite times spent with Jessica are those ordering snacks from streetside vendors after our office work. We would finish our adult duties, and walk the alleys that we have traversed as pre-teens; the surrounding sceneries were different, but our hearts still the same.
When we were carefree kids, we walked with her favorite dog who bit me, but the bite didn't hurt our relationship. When we were single adults, we’d be joined by her boyfriend. When she married, her husband would deliver food to us via his scooter. When she had kids, we piled into the car and drove three blocks to the ‘same’ vendor. The taste of chicken nuggets, rice sausages, string beans, and tofu squares crispy-fried in seasoning, and garnished with flash-fried basil—is beyond delicious on a week night after 9:00 pm.
The feeling of late-night snacking is exhilarating. It remains for me a strong scent of youthful freedom.