Chinese medicine tells us that the inside of the body is yin and the surface is yang. In Chinese cuisine yang methods of cooking and yang foods have warm energy and generate heat within the body. By contrast yin methods of cooking and yin foods have cold energy and cool the body down.
Two Lovers: Introduction
Chinese medicine tells us that the inside of the body is yin and the surface is yang. In Chinese cuisine yang methods of cooking and yang foods have warm energy and generate heat within the body. By contrast yin methods of cooking and yin foods have cold energy and cool the body down. As with cooking, so with life - a loving relationship should be both effortless and harmonious – a perfect balance between the male and female principles of yin and yang. Such a balance between the yin and the yang creates our qi or life force............
Recipe 1: When West meets East
Take two deep frozen spring chickens out of the freezer and let them defrost overnight. Make sure they are fully defrosted before adding the seasoning – garlic, chilli, ginger, soy sauce and spring onions. Allow to marinade outside of the fridge for eight hours to reach room temperature and ensure that the full flavour can emerge from each of the chickens. Massage the spices into the skin carefully before placing them on the spit over the open fire to roast them slowly [yang].
Slice some pak choi with a sharp knife and steam slowly, gently and lovingly in the steamer, watching the colours change as the heat rises [yin].
Allow the fragrance of the cooking to permeate your surroundings – enjoy the anticipation of tastes, smells and textures to linger on your tongue. Watch the slow transformation as the heat permeates your own body. Continue the steaming and turn the chickens regularly to balance the yin/yang and create an effortless harmony, a perfect sharing of energy. Ensure an even heat to all parts of their bodies, dividing the heat equally between them as the temperature slowly begins to rise..................
He was so looking forward to seeing her for dinner tonight.
But 'looking forward' hardly came near, hardly came close...
The truth was - he was desperate to see her......
Not a day had gone by in the past six months without him imagining her tight embrace, the hard passion of her lips and the melting of her body into his.
Desperate just didn't seem to do it justice either.
He burned to see her.
He burned to have her again and again, to feel her willing surrender, to feel her desire, her passion for him, to feel her own desire to have him.
Six months ago, last September, they had parted the 'best of friends'.
One of them unwilling, unable to commit to the feelings they had for one another....deep inside, hidden from view...
"We must do the right thing" she had said.
"But we just cannot go on seeing one another like this" he had replied, "I want you so much......"
And her eyes had filled with tears as she had briefly nodded her assent, suddenly distraught.
Tears which then overflowed, running down her cheeks, as she acknowledged the truth of his words.
"I know how you feel..., I know you're right but..." she had begun, before trailing off, unable to complete the sentence, looking at him, her gaze direct, suddenly full of reproach.
How could he do this to her?
A sudden surge of anger.
But then she had tried again, "Please.....why can't we just keep it the same as before" she had said but had then stopped, misery etched deep across her face.
"You know why" he had said sadly, a hint of bitterness creeping into his tone.
She had nodded again and retreated into her silence.
And so they had parted...... the agony of their lost desire had begun...............
But this was not to be the end of it.
In their hearts, their minds, their souls and...... their bodies, they had always known that this was not to be the end of it.
Theirs had always been more than parting.
In truth, they could do no other than willing surrender to one another.
And now, after six long months, six long, eternal months, he had phoned her the night before, out of the blue, surprising her, suddenly exciting her, panicking her, unsettling her...
"But I thought we had agreed......." and then a silence.
She shouldn’t try so hard..........
A token resistance
She wanted to see him more than her own life.
"Ok" she had said quickly.
A sudden desire to cry.............
"Chinese food would be fine......"
She didn't care ... just to see him again, to rekindle the fire in her heart, the heat in her body.
‘What time and where?"
A quick recovery, her heart starting to sing but her legs .......... suddenly uncertain, the reaction beginning
She wanted him too much
Desperate to see him again
The long months since their parting suddenly short
"Thank you" she said, "see you tomorrow..." her face shining as she finished the call.
"I love you" she said out loud to herself when she was sure he had gone.
Recipe 2: Fresh Chilli Seafood with Ginger
First take the freshest seafood you can get – scallops, mussels and squid [yin foods] are best – and stir fry them [yang cooking] in sesame oil [neutral] with some garlic [yang] and a few chillies for 2 - 3 minutes before adding some sweet chilli sauce [you can make this yourself by mixing water, ketchup, soy sauce and sugar, thickened with corn flour]. Cook for 1 more minute with some lime juice keeping the whole dish moist by adding some more water if necessary before adding ‘angel hair’ noodles and freshly grated root ginger [yang] to taste for a further 1 – 2 minutes. Stir the wok well with a non metallic spoon [essential to avoid grief] and serve with chopped coriander and garnish with spring onions. In this way the yin of the seafood will be balanced by the yang of the ginger to avoid creating too much heat in the body – the fire element of the heart [joy]will be controlled.
"Hao Jiu Mei Jian"
"How are you..............................?"
He paused looking intently at her, looking for a spark, looking for the lovers' recognition in her suddenly tearful, startling brown eyes.
"I'm fine," she replied, "how are you.........?"
A brief uncomfortable silence between them......
A slight awkwardness......
"Please sit down," he said, motioning to her seat.
He had risen from his own seat to greet her as he saw her entering the restaurant, suddenly conscious of his heart beginning to race, his palms sweaty and his throat dry. She looked more beautiful to him tonight than he could ever remember. He wanted to take her into his arms, to kiss her deeply and hold her very close to him – six months, a lifetime and he felt the tears prickle at the back of his eyes.
Why had it all gone wrong?
They were so right for each other. Their love for one another had always been understated, reserved, a knowing passion hidden just below the surface.
He took a deep breath and told himself to relax, to calm down, the evening was yet young and there would be plenty of time for feelings – provided she didn’t walk out on him again.
Play it cool, nothing too direct......
It was the Chinese way.
"Wo xiang ni", he said, as they picked up their menus, "I have missed you so very much............" looking directly into her eyes.
There, he had said it already.
So much for playing it cool!
For a brief moment they looked directly at one another as they had before in times past and there was a hint of the old recognition, the old understanding between them - but the intensity of her gaze, the unspoken intensity of her feeling was too great for him and he looked away, suddenly anxious, shy and faintly embarrassed by her immediate response to him.
She gave him a faint smile of assent but said nothing in reply, looking down at her menu.
Was she also embarrassed at this sudden clarity of feeling?
She had taught him that in her culture, you need not talk of your love, you need not say how you felt, you demonstrated it by what you did.
And what if you were suddenly overwhelmed, 'carried away' by your feelings?
If you couldn't hide your feelings?
"Always best not to give yourself away and certainly never in public" she had said to him once.
He was sure she had loved him and that was why it had had to stop. Maybe she was right? There are some things that are best unsaid. In all the years they had been seeing one another - the lunches, the dinners, the shows and the walks in the Park - she had never said that she loved him but he knew, he just knew that she did, he was sure that she did.
How did one know these things?
"I like you very much", she had once said to him in an unguarded moment, "I love to spend the time with you...you are my greatest, my dearest, my closest friend".
"I have missed you so much, while you have been away......"
And the feeling had hung there, between them, silently waiting to be picked up.......to be acted on.
But they hadn't.......
Later, that evening, she had cried with him over the meal – a silent, desperate crying born of frustration, tears coursing down her cheeks. He had taken her hand across the table to comfort her and she hadn’t taken it away.
And again, as he had walked her back to the Tube station arm in arm, they had stopped in the dark between the streetlights and turned to face one another – searching each other's eyes, looking for permission from one another, looking for a sign that it would be okay, okay to kiss and to become lovers.
But the moment passed and when he had moved slightly towards her upturned face to kiss her, she had gently shaken her head sadly, and turning her face away from his and looked in another direction, away from him, down the street.
"I'll be late for my train", she had said and with her arm still locked in his, had gently pulled him in the direction of the Tube.
As long as he lived, he knew he would always regret that lost moment between the streetlights, that moment when he had felt a perfect harmony between them, a readiness to commit their all to one another.
And, over the years, she had always said yes to his invitations, as he had hers, wanting to spend as much time with her as possible.
He was sure that he loved her.
But neither of them were free to pursue their love for one another - neither were able to express how deeply they felt, how much they needed one another or how much they desired each other.
Until that fateful day came when he had said the words to her, suddenly quite overcome with warmth, tenderness and an overwhelming desire for her.........
"Wo ai ni", he had said, without thought, without care or fear for the consequences of speaking his heart out loud.
"I love you".
He had repeated it in English.
She had been shocked into silence at this, unprepared for his declaration, outside of the unstated rules of their time together. She hadn't known how to respond, caught between her need for him and her heart's desire. She wanted to tell him about how deep her feelings for him were but she couldn't.......it would have spoiled everything.
So, she had thanked him and said she wanted them to remain close, dear friends but she couldn't, she just couldn't respond to him in the same way. She was so sorry but she wanted to keep things just the same as before.
He remembered how upset he had been at this and he had resolved never to mention it again, never to speak again of his heart's desire, to do as she wished and to keep things the same as before.
He couldn't give her up, he couldn't lose her......
But things had subtly changed between them.
She was no longer always available to see him and it had begun to feel rather awkward, strained between them when they did meet. She seemed rather uncomfortable with him despite his reassurances that things were just the same.
They both knew things could never the same and love, once expressed, cannot be taken back.
And so they had parted, six months previously............
A final meal together, a request from him to return to their past, a request by him to protect and commit more time to one another, to give themselves a chance to become close again as they had been before.
But an embarrassed silence from her, a denial of the distance that had grown between them, the denial of a change in her feelings for him, a pleading to keep things just as they were and to not push her into saying things they might regret.
‘We must do the right thing" she had said
And sadly, reluctantly, with a brief nod of assent, he had agreed that they 'could not go on seeing one another' like this but if they were going to part, then it was as 'the best of friends'.
And so, an early end to their meal together, her departure as he was still settling the bill, their eyes full of silent tears, regrets and sadness with their hearts still longing for one another.
She had left him there standing at the table, walking quickly out of the restaurant, without a backward glance, left him there alone with a cool 'good night' and an insincere 'please keep in touch' – but they hadn't.
He had lost her..............................until tonight.
"Shall we order?" he asked her, smiling happily, feeling once again overwhelmed by her presence and consumed by his love for her.
Recipe 3: Pork with Aubergine and Bamboo shoots
Gently stew [yin cooking] in a small casserole dish some minced pork [yin] in a small amount of chicken stock and sesame oil [neutral] with a little dry sherry, cider vinegar and plenty of coarsely chopped spring onions [yang] for 5 – 6 minutes. Stirfry [yang] in the wok a dozen small slices of aubergine [neutral] and some bamboo shoots [yin] in several tablespoons of sunflower oil until they are golden brown on the outside and softened in the middle before adding them to the pork stew. Simmer for a further 3 – 4 minutes before serving immediately on a bed of wholegrain rice.
Did she really love him?
She asked herself that question again – the question that had been troubling her for all those long months since they had parted, unhappy and lost..........
She had missed seeing him more than she had ever thought possible, burying herself in her work had proved no recompense for his love and devotion to her.
She had missed..................well, what exactly?
His warmth, his caring, his kindness, his thoughtfulness
Their conversations, the private space between them where she could be truly herself, where she could share her deepest thoughts and feelings
She had never met anyone, including her husband, who understood her so well, who anticipated her needs so well and who could make her laugh and cry in equal measure.
If only, if only, if only.........if only she had been free to love him – but she had met him too late in the day. She had thought herself happy, content, accepting her fate, her lot in life.
She gave a deep sigh..................she had always wanted to fly......
But, it was unfortunately true, she was not living with someone with whom she could share her love of art, literature and scholarship, someone who understood her and with whom she could be truly herself, someone with whom she could fly..........
She had resigned herself to this........until.........tonight.
As she came into the restaurant, her eyes still dazzled by the light outside, she saw him there at the table, waiting anxiously for her. Her heart started to sing. She just hadn't imagined how happy, how excited and how overwhelmed, she would be to see him again.
"Hao Jiu, Mei Jian", he had said.
"Long time, no see" and she thought her heart was going to burst. She suddenly felt tearful. Oh, how she would like to hold him, kiss him and make him hers again.......
But she just smiled, said nothing and sat down in the proffered seat.
"I mustn't give myself away", she thought.
"We must pretend that the past six months haven't happened and that things are the same as they always were" she told herself firmly.
But a faint panic in the back of her mind was beginning to rise......
Why had she come to see him again?
Why was she opening Pandora's Box again?
Why couldn’t she have just said no to his invitation?
"Because you love him" a little voice deep in her heart said.
"Because you still love him - that's why"
"Well nothing has changed and nothing can happen" she replied to herself.
"Oh yes, it can........." said the little voice.
She needed to keep control of herself.
She looked across the table into his eyes – she saw his anxiety, his love and his desire for her in them.
She was suddenly melting......, her heart had started to sing and her deep desire for him suddenly welled up with no warning or hesitation. At that moment she wanted him very much.........
She took a deep breath and continued to gaze directly at him.
"Wo xiang ni", he said, "I have missed you so very much......"
"Damn," she thought, "why does he always do this to me?"
"Why can he not learn that some things are better left unsaid?"
"You can love someone without having to say it all the time"
"I don’t want any complications tonight"
"I just want to go back to the way things were before"
A brief spasm of anger with him, frustration with herself but then.......
"Shall we order?" he asked her gently, warmly – a smiling invitation, pointing to the menu in her hand.
"Perhaps I should leave now before I am completely lost?" she asked herself silently, returning the smile, despite herself, in response to his quiet invitation.
"Then why did you come if you didn't want to be lost to him?" said the little voice nagging away in her head............
The Spring Equinox [March 20, 21 or 22]
When all is made anew...................
Spring is almost come my love.......
Cold dark days of loneliness are passing
The early morning chorus of our love is beginning again
The yin, the yang, our effortless equilibrium beckons
We reach for one another, as if for the first time
And touch, a brief encounter, warmth in our sudden knowing
For I have known you before my love........
Another world, another life, another place
This is not our first Spring together
Our light, our dark, in perfect balance
This very moment, the turning point in the endless cycle of our seasons
Our past harmony restored.......................
For with such recognition comes life, comes joy
Our Spring Equinox surrounds us, excites us and makes us one
Together again, new life, new heart, new hope
And pregnant with the knowledge of our lives that
Summer will come
With its’ longer days and shorter nights..............
Recipe 4: Pancakes with Banana and Walnuts in Red Bean Paste
Thinly slice several bananas [yin] and put them onto a spring roll wrapper before adding three teaspoons of red bean paste. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts [yin] and fold and seal the pancakes – after ensuring the oil is at a high temperature deep fry [yang cooking] the pancakes before serving hot with vanilla ice cream and fresh apricots.
The street was deserted as they left the restaurant.
It was getting late........
Over dinner they had talked and loved and touched one another’s hands across the table ...to their hearts' content.
Relaxed, each delighting in the others company
"Do you remember............."
Laughing and crying with laughter at the old stories of them
Timeless, effortless, harmonious............
All caution, all restraint cast to the winds
He took her arm and she leaned into him.
They paused between the streetlights, turning towards each other, the moment.. perfect, just right......the perfect balance between them.....
"Qing wo" she said.
"Please kiss me".
He took her into his arms, gazed at her face for a few short moments, as if seeing her complete for the first time and then...he kissed her.........
"We can do no other.........than love one another"
NM, 25th September 2011
‘Why the Chinese don’t count calories’
Lorraine Clissord 
Skyhorse Publishing Inc, New York, NY
‘Chinese Food made easy’
Ching-He Huang 
Harper Collins, London, UK
Nigel Mathers is a great lover of Chinese food, culture and women! He has struggled for the past year to learn Mandarin Chinese but recently managed to get 85% for his entry level HSK exam [reading and listening]. He is still not sure who was more surprised by this good result – his teacher or himself!
He is a medical academic who works half time seeing patients for the NHS and half time researching for his University as well as working for a Royal College in London. His current research interests are shared decision making between doctors and patients, the care of people with long term conditions and the unmet health needs of migrants.
He currently works in London two days a week and was delighted to be asked by the Dean of the Ming-Ai Institute to write something for this project - although his contribution turned out to be rather different to what she expected!
When he is not indulging himself in such attempts at creative writing he likes nothing more than to have good conversation with his Chinese friends whilst enjoying the wonderful Chinese food which is available in London.
“Can you write us an article?” Considering Nigel’s medical background, I’ve suggested healthy food as the subject.
“Of course I am happy to...” Nigel paused for a while, and then said, “But healthy food is such a boring topic, can I write a love story instead?”
“It is a food project...” Maybe he doesn’t understand what I mean.
“I know, and it will be food related.” Nigel nodded his head, adding, “and sexy.”
“Er, I can’t see why not...” a little bit far-fetched but arguable.
“If music be the food of love, play on...” He reassuring me with Shakespeare, so I agreed to translate the story and discussed the storyline with him. British Chinese Food Culture, so the plot has to emphasis the culture differences and similarities between East and West, food or no food.
It is a joy in translating, food and love, the most essential elements to support our life! Hope you enjoy it too.
Chungwen Li, Dean of Ming-Ai Institute.