There has, however, always been one tiny, tenuous point of connection between Jean's parents and me: food. Or, more specifically, my fascination with Taiwanese food, which, I learned over time, is heavily influenced by Japan (the island was a Japanese colony from 1895 to 1945) and incorporates regional flavors from all over mainland China, thanks to the influx of immigrants after 1949, when Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalists, having lost the Chinese civil war to the Communists, retreated to Taiwan, bringing millions of refugees. Despite its many influences, the cooking on this small island (about the size of Maryland) maintains a stark individuality. It is defined by its ingredients—herbs like basil, offal such as intestine, lots of seafood—and also by its structure. Big, heavy dishes are rare, and xiao chi, or small eats, are the norm, found everywhere from night markets and street corners to full-scale restaurants and homes. It's all about snacking.