Alice Liu, a 24-year-old community advocate, lends a hand at her parents’ small shop, GTW Tea and Water, which sells Chinese cultural goods such as teas, Buddhist items, and tourist tchotchkes. Over the years, she’s helped her parents in all kinds of ways, including with food prep at a restaurant they once owned. “I have vivid memories of sitting over a giant box of takeout soy-sauce packets, using scissors to clip the corners, and draining them into a bucket,”
I spoke with Liu in the spring of 2018. Below is our conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
I started working with my parents when I was 6 or 7 years old, back when they were running a small Chinese-food restaurant on Rivington Street. After school, my mom or dad would pick up my sister and me and bring us back to the restaurant. When I wasn’t doing my homework, I would wait on customers, wipe down tables, or clear dirty dishes and bring them back to the kitchen.
Obviously, we weren’t, like, hard-laboring … a lot of the time, we were outside skipping rope or chalking the sidewalk. Really, it was child care, since my parents couldn’t leave the restaurant or afford someone to watch us. But when my dad wanted to “build character,” he would pull us into the back for whatever work we were capable of. I have vivid memories of sitting over a giant box of takeout soy-sauce packets, using scissors to clip the corners, and draining them into a bucket. We figured out you could clip five at a time. So we would make these little stacks, clip, drain, stack, clip, drain.