A Family’s Quarantine-Kitchen Bonding in “Have You Eaten”

By Han Zhang, Film by Lina Li, The New Yorker, December 18, 2020

In the first few months of quarantine, Lina Li was especially well fed. In mid-March, Li, a junior at Ryerson University, in Toronto, decamped from her apartment downtown and moved back to her parents’ house in the suburban town of Thornhill, about half an hour’s drive from the city. Li’s mother, Yan Gao, was prepared for the lockdown—in January, after learning about the spread of the coronavirus in China, she stocked her pantry with staples: for starters, four bottles of soy sauce and ten bags of jasmine rice; a restaurateur friend supplied brisket, for the freezer. The only thing Gao didn’t stock up on was vegetables—she doesn’t believe in frozen greens. She grows zucchini, cucumbers, green onions, chives, and tomatoes in her garden. The pandemic brought Gao’s two adult daughters and her husband—who, for decades, had split his time between Beijing and Toronto for business—under one roof. The family played board games, watched movies, and took daily walks together—that is, between gulping down the elaborate meals that Gao whipped up. Read more…