Sean Connery, who loves mom’s Chinese food, helped save her sanity


In many Chinese-American families and especially mine, love is not manifested in physical gestures like hugging, touching or saying I love you. It shows through a special dish cooked especially for you by your mother, like steamed whole fish in black bean sauce when you only have A’s (I had pork chow mein when I’m returned with all the Bs).

I can’t blame my mom for her stoicism considering the cards she was dealt. But Leeann Chin eventually learned to play those cards and reclaim her life from seamstress to pioneer restaurateur in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

Growing up in Guangzhou, China, she was a rebellious girl and the communists saw her fiery nature. They recruited her to lead a group of Mao students at school. His parents decided to put an end to it. They shipped her off to Hong Kong to marry my father and escape the Cultural Revolution.

My mother met my father on their wedding day. She was 18 years old.

Step-freak, abusive alcoholic husband

My father suffered from depression and turned to alcohol. His mother was a widow and also an alcoholic. They got drunk every night and asked my mother to cook their favorite dishes. To each dish were added constant criticisms: “This dish is too salty! Bring us more Johnny Walker!

Leeann Chin, left, her mother-in-law Sook Yee Chin, her daughter Linda and her husband Tony Chin in 1952 in Hong Kong.

Her life has become a routine of cleaning, cooking, being scolded, getting pregnant. Mousse. Rinse. Repeat.

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After my parents immigrated to Minnesota in 1956, my mother faced all kinds of new challenges like freezing winters, learning to speak English, Velveeta cheese, Wonder bread, caring for six children, her beau -monster and a violent alcoholic husband.




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