During those years, the Buddhist maxim ''There is no Chance; there is only Law'' could well have been applied to our kitchen. Nai-nai was the principal cook, and dinner was a set piece, the inevitable product of the fan-cai principle of Chinese cuisine—with fan, in its broadest sense, referring to any grain or grain-based food, and cai to any cooked vegetable, meat, or fish. Due, however, to her loyalty to custom, her sense of regional pride, or perhaps her old-fashioned suspicion of all processed foods, Nai-nai preferred fan in the form prescribed by the term's narrowest interpretation: boiled rice. Only on the rare occasions when my mother presided at the stove might the evening meal consist of noodles—and when it did, it was spaghetti alla carbonara. Nai-nai permitted Italian noodles at the table because they were, well, Italian, and unlike Chinese noodles, they did not subvert her Law.