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Radio Readers BookByte: Strawberry Yields Forever

Jason Harper

My wife May has said that before she met me, she was living alone in a bleak, dark, drafty apartment, working long hours at a law firm, and that she only ate ramen noodles every day.

Back in her single days, she didn’t cook much because she was so busy with work, yet held a deep appreciation for good food – her being born in Mongolia and having traveled to many, many places, including China, Laos, Vietnam, The Philippines, Shangri-La, Ji?np?zhài, and Katmandu.

Credit Jason Harper / Hays, Kansas
Hays, Kansas
The old song goes, "Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage," but in this case, strawberries and Twinkies go together like love and marriage.

For our first date, we had arranged to meet at a subway stop in uptown Shenyang, the capitol city of China’s Liaoning Province. I had been living and working in China for several years, learning just enough of the local language to get by day-to-day, yet fluent in ordering Chinese food at restaurants.

As an aforementioned food and fiction/non-fiction connoisseur (and solely self-proclaimed chef and author), my approach to first dates back in my single days was to find common ground in the realm of books, movies, or cuisine. With a date, if you both like to eat, you can easily talk about favorite foods. And, if you both like to travel and eat, those conversations go to a whole other level. 

Toward the end of that first date with May, I somehow managed to cajole her into coming over to my place for a second date, that I could confidently cook a foreign-food dinner for her.

You see, way back years ago, my mother had told me that there comes a time in life when the typical “dudes” are not what most women are looking for, and in order to up the ante, a fellow needs to somehow stand out from the pack. Ma said that having even the most basic cooking skills is a great way to show a gal positive features.

“Learn to cook something at home,” Ma said. “The bedroom is closer to your kitchen than it is to a restaurant.”

So for the second-date dinner with May, I made spaghetti marinara and a dessert of homemade strawberry sauce drizzled over.... Twinkies. Maybe not chef-level cuisine, but at least I had made myself, in my kitchen.

I guess it worked. Now, years later and oceans away, my wife and I still have Strawberry Sauce atop a Bed of Twinkies for dessert once in a while. May stubbornly won't admit outright that such a simple dessert sauce was enough to make me stand out from her pack of suitors, but I do, in fact, believe that it did -- because now our bedroom is right next to our kitchen -- in the home we share together.

And for that, I must thank my Ma for teaching me some basic cooking skills, and to the other "dudes" who didn't have the slightest clue about how to stand out.

Jason Harper is the author of Yellow No. 5, a forthcoming work of fiction in eBook format. He has worked in several editorial positions, including as an editorial assistant at Passages North during his M.A. at Northern Michigan University and was the managing editor of Mikrokosmos while earning his Creative Writing M.F.A. at Wichita State University. Harper also has written countless restaurant reviews and published a collection of Chinese cuisine recipes available from Blue Comet Books, via www.amazon.com