I like to describe what stinky tofu smells like to anyone who’s never smelled it. Skunks. Rotten eggs. Dog’s breath. Stinky enough that people can’t tell if they’re eating it or it’s eating them. I’ve learned that it’s sold on the streets on the other side of the world, and over there everyone eats it, but the only place I’ve ever had it was at your house. Your mom used to make it from scratch, although make is not the right word. Cultivate maybe. (That’s our word of the week at school.) Sometimes she’d fry it and sometimes she’d steam it and sometimes she’d serve it cold. Not much can be done to stinky tofu that will actually do anything to it. It’s alive and angry. It was often our afternoon snack. Your mom would insist that the two of us have some. Good for kids, helps to grow, she’d say, or at least that was how you would translate what she was saying. Maybe she was really saying I don’t like either of you and this is your punishment. We’d hold our noses. I always ate more than you, but that’s because my mom doesn’t make me snacks to eat, afternoon or any time, stinky or not. Now that your mom doesn’t want people over much anymore, I’m a little worried I might forget the smell. I’ll keep on describing it whenever I can, to all those people who have never smelled it: sweaty socks; yesterday’s puke; excrement (that was last week’s word of the week at school.) I was thinking the other day that you might smell worse than stinky tofu, by now, where you are. You’d have loved that.
Kristen Loesch is an Asian-American writer and aspiring novelist. Her work has been shortlisted for the Caledonia Novel Award and longlisted for the Bath Novel Award. She placed runner-up in the 2019 Mslexia Short Story Competition. She lives in the Pacific Northwest of the USA with her husband and their children.