Peking Duck by Jong Won

What was the first thing that made you truly happy?

The first thing that made me truly happy was the smell of roast duck veering out of my friend’s kitchen. I was in kindergarten and my mom was working at the time, so my classmate’s mom would pick me up along with her daughter. It happened so often that when she didn’t pick me up, I would feel slightly empty, as if I was robbed of something. I remember the mother’s face as large; her frame, slender and long. She made me feel at home.

The smell had been so powerful that when I first stepped into her home, I had to ask what it was. She told me, and said the words that still make me so happy today.

“Would you like to try some?”

I nodded my head.

I forgot about it until many years later when me and my mom were at a Chinese restaurant that specialized in Peking duck, and the noticeably crispy and golden-brown skin appeared on the table.

“Mom! That’s the smell.”

“What?” she asked.

I don’t know if I explained myself. It didn’t matter, it was that single moment of recognition and longing that made it so significant. I still feel this nostalgic pang every time I smell roast duck. It’s as if I’ve been placed on railroad tracks, forced to feel my spirit race towards it.

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