Pondering Over a Tomato Soup

by Shizhou Yang


I sent a spoonful of the fire-hued soup—

Or should I call it stew—

In my mouth

A sour sweet sensation of the “West” 

That my tomato-growing Chinese parents

Never had

To their days of their passing

Ten years apart from each other

Until they were joined again in a hill

Their tomb stone with a red cross

Overlooking a vast lake.


46 years ago

They gave me life 

On this day

At home

At the foot of Himalayas

With the help of a granny

They also gave me an earthly liking for tomato

That as a child, I would hold it in my palm

So big and succulent, fresh from our garden

And eat it raw

Sometimes with a sprinkle

Of white ground sugar, a rarity in the countryside

And won mouth-watering admiration from my cousins

I heard C. S. Lewis, a literary hero in my adult life, was also a tomato lover

Forgot if he mentioned tomato as part of his Surprised by Joy


Tomato soup, a dowry from my wife

Blended with avocado and oregano

Bread crumbs and black pepper

Invites my mind to revisit through my taste buds

My younger years of eating corn porridge

Except for its passionate lingering flavor


My tomato soup, the one I used to drink almost daily as a child, 

Was a tranquil lake

In my plain ceramic bowl

—Slices of red its anchored boats

—Egg drops its wandering clouds

—Bits of green onion its welcoming islands


Did they ever set that prisoner free

The one who risked his life

Taking the first bite

Of this forbearing forbidden forgiving fruit?

If not, take counsel in the wise words of a poet I read this morning:

Be not disturbed.

All will be forgotten,

Bad deeds, and good.

Still, what would happen to my tomato soup or my wife’s tomato stew

Or your pizza

Or Grandma’s Lasagne

Without this poison of cutlery pleasure?


Will the Master of the heavenly banquet call it

To Mei Toe

To Ma Toe

Or xi hong shi (fruit of the West)

Or fan qie (fruit of the barbarians)?

Will it matter anymore?

The temptation will always be there:

Red and ready for longing hearts

With or without the word-twisting persuasion.


I sent the last spoonful of my wife’s tomato soup into my mouth

Munching it with cheese crackers and home-made bread.

I am full. And I am

Thankful to be still alive


As the youngest son of two tomato-growing parents

Relishing tomato soup from another land.