Lessons from a Pepper Pancake

Part of the stereotype people hold towards Taiwan is the street food: this is certainly something that I cannot debunk, and does not plan to. Just five minutes walking from my house, there are at least two to three trucks selling food.

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Here’s one selling kebab.

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Here’s the other one selling pepper pancake.

When my mother and I went up to the stand, we had to wait for almost half an hour since they were fresh out of pancakes and another batch is coming along. Within the blue truck, there is a deep, lidded red bucket where the pancakes are baked: each are stuck to the sides of the bucket and baked until its outer crust is crisp.

As I watched the old shop owner scrapping each pancake off the bucket with surgical grace and dual spatulas, I was distracted from the infinite mosquito bites and the constant humidity. The old man was just staring into the red barrel, a faint smile wrinkled his kind face as he packaged the pancakes in paper bags. Three pancakes for 100NT (around 3 USD). Thank you so much, have a great day!

Was I in the U.S. again? It’s been awhile since a stranger last smiled and acted in the interest of the rest of my day.

No, this smile, in the sea of blank expressions that adorned the majority of the Taiwanese public places, was not just a formality or gesture. It is a feeling, a warmth that radiated in waves that passed from the pancakes wrapped in paper hanging in the pink plastic bags to my hand. Than it slowly went to my heart and brain. A warmth that is not pure humidity in a New Taipei street.

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