It’s freshman year of high school. After a long day of exams and presentations, I throw my backpack on our living room floor. Exhausted, I run to the kitchen, ready to cook myself a delicious bowl of Indomie instant fried noodles — a staple of the Wang family household. The junkier the food, the better.
As I open the fridge, reaching for an egg to complement my noodles, I see a bowl of freshly cut fruit with a small sticky note on it that says, “For Vivi.”
Mom is still at work on this Friday afternoon. We’ve completely missed each other the entire day, since on Fridays, I leave for school at seven in the morning, and Mom doesn’t come home until around dinner time. This bowl of fruit, then, encompasses everything. It’s Mom’s way of saying, “I know you’re busy with school work, but I still want you to take care of yourself. Eat something healthy. I love you, I’m proud of you, and I’ll see you soon.” Mom’s bowl of cut fruit is her way of cheering me on. It’s her way of making sure that the bitter moments of my day can be instantly fixed with pure sweetness.
Mom wakes up at five every morning. Even though she has a full day ahead of her, she still makes time to cut fruit for me and my two siblings. Sometimes, when I wake up early enough on a Sunday morning, I can hear the sound of her knife thumping against the cutting board. Its steady rhythm matches the rhythm of my footsteps as I race down the stairs to the sight of Mom chopping away at the task. On these Sundays, she’ll stand at the kitchen counter for an hour, preparing her bowl of love with unwavering empathy and compassion.
Every day, the bowl looks different. One day, she’ll make grid-like cuts into a halved mango so that we can easily scoop out its insides. The next day, she’ll arrange pear slices into a beautiful flower shape and add a small blueberry in the middle as a special flair. Pear days require an extra fifteen minutes of her time; she soaks the pears in lemon juice to prevent them from browning. Whether it be a seed-free papaya or a fuzz-free peach, there’s always something unique.
Dad says that Mom shouldn’t cut fruit for us anymore. My siblings and I range from 14, 19 and 22 years old — we should be able to prepare our own fruit. He says that Mom spoils us too much with her colorful, ready-to-eat slices. But there’s more to it than the nutritious pears and nectarines that I look forward to devouring. Cut fruit is my Asian mom’s love language.
Mom is different from the typically perceived Asian mom. Most Asian parents express their love through actions, but Mom expresses her love through actions and words. We say, “I love you”; we hug, and she kisses us on the head each morning, feeling more like a gentle peck. Every Asian mom expresses love in their own way, and that’s the beauty of it all.
Five months since coming to Stanford, I still reminisce about the bowls of Mom’s cut fruit. At college, I see the uncut, whole apples in the dining hall waiting to be peeled, diced and consumed — and seeing them makes me miss home a little too much. One December night, while I was eating dinner at Wilbur with my friend, I got a notification on my phone from The Stanford Daily Slack. I clicked it. It took me to an article by Chinese-American journalist Connie Wang about how her mom expresses her love through cut fruit.
Reading Connie’s article felt as if I was reading about my own life. I then decided to read the article to my friend, since we both grew up with Taiwanese parents. She told me her mom frequently cut fruit for her when she was in high school, and our dinner conversation instantly digressed from our previous conversation into one about our shared experience.
That night, I started to think about whether it was coincidental that all three of us — my friend, Connie and I — had Asian moms who cut fruit for us. As I continued to speak with my friends who also have Asian moms, I noticed that many of my friends also grew up with their mom cutting fruit for them. Turns out, cutting fruit is the love language of many Asian moms. It’s a beautiful, almost universal, experience.
When I was in high school, I sometimes took these slices of fruit for granted. They were slices of my life that I had long gotten used to seeing and eating. But now, as I’m writing this article from my college dorm room, all I can think about is how amazing a bowl of Mom’s freshly cut Asian pears would taste right now.