Feminist Insight from a Taiwanese Steakhouse

There is a certain steakhouse that my sister and I are bound to dine at every time we come back to Taiwan: it was more than just the delicious escargot or the ribeye steaks or the warm crepes with tri-layered ice cream. It was a memory of the distant weekends when the family and other family friends crowded around the checkered tables, laughing and talking in the dimmed lights while I demanded my share of lobster without really understanding the price.

As you can see, the food is really excellent. Though, what really struck me was the touch of home: despite the high-class atmosphere, the waiters still spoke Taiwanese and beamed with a distinctive homely air (as supposed to the formal Mandarin Chinese like most high-end restaurants).

Another thing was that, right before we left our seats to pay (most Taiwanese restaurants do not bring the bill to the table after the meal. You have to walk to the front counter to pay), the restaurant owner, an old woman around her 60s claimed our attention as she recognized us as one of the older regulars that she had not seen for a long time. After commenting on how much my sister and I grew (to look exactly like our mother), she went on an unexpected episode.

“You know, it’s really different now,” She was addressing our mom as she learned that my mother had my sister when she was in her 30s. “Back in the agrarian times, we all had children in our early 20s, and all we thought we are supposed to do when we grow up was to marry.” With an exasperated expression she added, “It’s all different now: you two,” she gazed upon my sister and I with her patient eyes, “You two have got to remember that you can only marry if you find someone that is worthy. You don’t even need to get married: it’s more free that way!”

While leaning back into her chair to give laugh, she decided to give us a specials for our meal, taking 20% off for oldtimes sake while I left feeling a little happier seeing in person for the first time a Taiwanese woman from the older generation that is not helplessly conservative and busy telling me how horrible it is for me to be so tan.

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