She never talks without a gracious smile,
And is never shy of pampering every tummy.
Still, nobody knows her actual name—
Our mysterious Mrs Hudson (in Chinese style)—
As we’ve resolved to call her A-Yi1, Da-Jie2 and Mummy
Since years ago she came.

From an exotic people of West Guizhou,
A-Yi was born in the heart of all China;
And, nowadays, at noon and six,
She’s in the heart of every hungry soul—
Holding us captive in her fine diner
With the tang, the magic … the fix!

The sweet granny doesn’t work for the money—
No joke!
She just can’t stand idling like a monument.
So, really, A-Yi is here for her hobby—
The all-day party with chores and heat and smoke—
So long as it keeps her from retirement.

She starts before sunrise every day,
And, single-handedly, crafts our favourite savouries.
She can do noodles like a Henanese
And alchemise peppers in the Sichuan way;
Her condiments beat a Cantonese spicery’s,
And her chops are quicker than Bruce Lee’s!

Apart from cooking five courses each meal,
She often spoils us, out of her own purse,
With goodies from her distant country.
Indebtedly, and in vain, we appeal
For many a time to reimburse,
To which she waves off, saying, “Mei de shi!3

Not for all the green and black and oolong tea in China
(Which we sure know better than the Brits!)
That we would give up A-Yi for anybody else;
Yet, our beloved chef, straining a smile, here in the diner
Now tells us she must quit and care for her grandkids—
There … an ineffable sadness … not lightly felt.

Colin Lee


1. “A-Yi”—“Aunty” in Mandarin.
2. “Da-Jie”—“Big Sister” in Mandarin.
3. “Mei de shi”—“It’s nothing” in Guizhouese.

13 thoughts on ““A-Yi”

Add yours

    1. Thank you for sharing my love and admiration for this beautiful person, Amaya. I fear my poem has failed to do her justice. This motherly confidante whom I’m both proud and humbled to call my friend is too amazing to be put in words.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. she is a dying breed of amazing iron chefs and I am sure she seasons every dish with passion, bless her hands that create and you for hounouring her so beautifully in this poem. reads like a little story Colin, you captured her so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I doubt it’s done justice to her and her many acts of kindness over the years. But, anyway, thank you so much for reading and sitting with me, Gina. Life without her in the factory will be quite hard to bear.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. just by sharing about her gives her a place in our minds and hearts, you sprinkle kindness by uplifting the ordinary people. it takes a big man to notice and appreciate the sacrifices people like “A-Yi” make in our lives. she reminds me of Paddington Bear, Colin! Life would indeed be so dreary without her infusion of smell, taste and sound!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So well said, Gina. Thank you. I would, nevertheless, add that A-Yi is nothing ordinary with her one-of-a-kind kindness. She’s so unlike any chefs I’ve ever met. Also, a fairly big man I am — weighing 200 lbs — only too clumsy for the teeny soul inside. Lol

        Liked by 1 person

      3. haha! do you know some of the best dancers are heavy weights who aren’t clumsy at all, you just feel that way, I bet you could be twinkle toes! you have a huge heart and showing a little of it each time you write.

        Liked by 1 person

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