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How My Grandma’s Bitter Tonic Soup Heals Resentment

Think twice before you consume this, otherwise opt to let go of resentments

Image by vivi14216 from Pixabay

“If you are going to fight some more, I am going to make black soup. Don’t mess with me!” — my late grandma would yell from the kitchen.

I used to fight with my same age cousin brother when doing homework. I don’t know why, maybe I hated homework. We would irritate each other so much and end up fighting with fists and all.

If Ah Ma caught us, she would twist both our ears and it will be black soup punishment for the night!

Growing up with my late grandma, I had to suffer drinking black soup a lot. I was told these bitter black tonic are actually healing stuff.

Ah Ma would go to the Chinese Medical Shop and tell the old Sinsei uncle(Chinese traditional doctor)she needed something to cool down my heatiness.

She does not believe in western medicine. So there is no such thing as taking paracetamol if you have a headache or fever.

Sinsei uncle would pull the tiny drawers behind him and grab handfuls of different herbs and wrap them for Ah Ma.

I dread when I see slices of dried black barks packed.

I know for sure it’s going to be a long night. The bloody tonic is bitter as hell. (Yes, at 12 years old, I knew how hell taste like)😝

The pack of herbs will be slow-boiled for 3 hours at least over charcoal fire. Yes, Ah Ma made sure the bitter soup is properly brewing to squeeze every bit of the herbs.

No such thing as wasting good herbs. 🤢🥴

Image by kian2018 from Pixabay

The smell of this thick bitter brew would permeate the entire house like a warning smoke signal. The dried earthy roots and barks smell like dry hay burning over BBQ but 100 times worst.

Here is the thing though, after years of drinking this thick black brew, it made me realised I often hold on to resentment for my cousin brother.

I resented him for being the only male in the family. Like many traditional Chinese family, he is favoured above the rest of us.

It feels unfair to me as I had to shoulder a lot of crap and often get the blame even if he is at fault. As a healthy male in the family, he gets the privilege to the chicken drumstick for dinner! 😠

I guess Ah Ma knew and sense my resentment. Each time we fought, she would brew the horrible concoction.

The trip to the shop and the smell while the herb is brewing automatically redirects my mind from my resentment over my cousin’s brother.

Instead, I try to create excuses to pass the punishment to him. (Unfortunately, they are pathetic, futile attempts.)😬

Gradually, I would admit defeat and succumb to the black tonic soup.

I would focus on the thick gunk in front of me for hours until it tires me. As the hours passed, I would find calm in my heart and mind.

Old Sinsei uncle used to say — “When you have resentment, your heart, lungs, liver and kidney stores up negative energy. You feel hot all over. So, you must cool down. You have heatiness. No need to be angry, just drink soup.”

Photo by Ching Ching & my cousin, Adeline —Black Herbal Tonic Soup

Life will come with bitterness whether we want them. In reality, the world is an ugly, unfair place.

It will piss us to hell and back with our cheating ex, an abusive divorce, a betrayal from a best friend, our business partner running away with our hard earned money or a colleague who took that promotion away from us.

(Hmm… maybe even for those who did not received the writer’s bonus despite working your butts off?)✌🏽❤️

Are we able to skip this bitter part of life and move on with life?

I am not sure. A lot depends on how much we can forgive, or as some say, take a step back.

The one thing I have learned is there is no such thing as a tonic that could fix bitterness-resentment, and I know we are the only one who can fix us — internally.

I know over time, as we mature with different experiences, we learn more about ourselves — our limitations, beliefs and our triggers.

We eventually become better at letting go bitter resentments.

We work hard on forgiving and loving ourselves. Over time as we heal, we see and accept the bigger picture — REALITY, which can be difficult to change.

When we are filled with resentment, it blinds us from seeing other truths in front of us. Often these are our insecurities, anger or self doubt, pushing us to act out stupid.

When I step back to reflect, it often has nothing to do with the other person. I would usually be in denial over my faults or too arrogant about myself. 😔

While I think my cousin brother has all the attention, it also came with enormous responsibilities for him to shoulder as the only male in the family.

I wasted energy resenting over nothing. 🥴

Side note: In Chinese Traditional Medicine, bitter herbs are used to purge heatiness or absorbed dampness in our lungs. I eventually found out there are so many bitter herbs in one tonic concoction!

I think it could kill Dracula too, if he ever drank it.

Just in case you come across any of these names — Andrographis, Belamcanda, Coptis, Dictamnus, Gardenia, Gentiana, Phellodendron, Picrorrhiza, Sophora.

Run! Friends! Run! 🏃🏃🏻‍♀️🏃🏃🏻‍♀️

Thank you for staying till the end.

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Ching Ching

I am a Malaysian discovering ways to write about my life and my encounters with people. Nature is my inspiration.