Cooking convenience for cancer patients

2024-04-24 08:34:43China Daily Editor : Mo Honge ECNS App Download

Cancer patients' family members cook meals for their hospitalized relatives at the "kitchen of love" in Nanchang, Jiangxi province. (CHINA DAILY)

Wan Zuocheng, 70, starts his day at 4 am.

The first thing he does after heading downstairs is fire up over a dozen stoves and get his kettle going. He boils a large amount of water every day to help the families of cancer patients with their cooking.

Knowing that patients generally have a poor appetite after chemotherapy, he also prepares many pots of porridge.

His wife, 68-year-old Xiong Gengxiang, handles rice cooking. She cooks more than 10 pots of rice a day. At 9 am, the couple welcomes their first batch of customers and keeps serving until the last customer leaves around 8 or 9 pm.

The special kitchen is located in Qingshan Lake district in Nanchang, East China's Jiangxi province, right next to Jiangxi Cancer Hospital. Over the past two decades, it has become widely known as the "anti-cancer kitchen" for providing inpatients and their families with a convenient place to cook meals.

The couple provides the use of their stoves and kitchenware to the public for a very low price — a mere 1 yuan ($15 cents).

The kitchen was originally a breakfast stall that Wan and Xiong operated. They used to cook youtiao, or deep-fried dough sticks, which were well-known in the neighborhood.

One day in 2003, a young couple walked by and asked if they could use the stove to cook food for their son. The boy, then a teenager, was suffering from bone cancer. He wanted to eat his mother's cooking while he was hospitalized.

Wan and Xiong let the young mother use their stove for free. Later, they offered the use of the stove and their kitchenware at no charge to other families who wanted to make meals for their hospitalized relatives.

As word spread about the couple's deed, people who had used their kitchen began referring to the stall as "anti-cancer kitchen". Some even started calling it "kitchen of love" that made them feel warm.

To enable more people to cook at the same time, Wan and Xiong purchased more stoves and kitchenware and transformed their little stall into a larger kitchen.

"Everyone who comes here to cook has a family member suffering from cancer," Wan said. "Patients always want to eat meals cooked by their family members, so it (running the kitchen) is a great thing for us."

A Chinese road sign which reads "kitchen of love" in a street near the kitchen in Nanchang. CHINA DAILY

To cover basic costs, the couple initially charged people only 0.5 yuan to cook, but they eventually increased the price to 1 yuan in 2016.

Fan, a family member of a cancer patient in the hospital, has made more than 50 dishes in the communal kitchen. "I learned about this place from other families of patients," said Fan, who is from neighboring Jiujiang city and brought his family to Nanchang for treatment. "I made eel soup here, because there's no way you can buy it anywhere else."

There are many people like Fan who use this facility to prepare food for their sick loved ones. The "kitchen of love" hosts more than 10,000 people annually who come to cook meals.

In February 2021, Wan and Xiong received the Touching China Award 2020, which is an annual award that recognizes the country's most inspiring role models in different aspects. Later that year, in November, they were also named "National Moral Models".

When asked about their motivation for doing this, Wan said: "I want to help. I am willing to do it, and I'll keep doing it as long as I can."

Despite the increasing expenses in rent and utility bills, the couple said they will continue to persevere.

"We are not doing it for money. We are doing it because it brings us a sense of fulfillment," Xiong added.

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