Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Pink Suitcase Chronicles #25 to CHINA!

Pink has certainly had the trip of her lifetime --- as have we! We left for China on May 18th and will return today after an overnight delay in Vancouver, Canada. ( I am writing this from the airport.) I have been trying to keep up with a few folks via email, but this is the first time I have access to my blog and can post on the internet. China has restrictions with Google and my personal blog is powered through Google. So, you see, there will be a bit of catching up to do! Where to begin is actually quite a challenge. Do I give a chronological report? No, I don't want to repeat myself to those who were getting emails. Instead, I think these Pink Suitcase Chronicles will focus, rather, on things I observed and learned and took straight to my heart. This was the journey of a lifetime,and I will be processing it all for quite some time. Therefore, this post will focus on what I/we learned as far as dining Chinese-style. (NOT the actual ingested ingredients but how to place them in one's mouth or down one's throat.) What really helped us was having on our private dining room in the hotel we stayed at during the first week - shown here: We learned that the man or host should sit facing the door. Wes is not sitting where he should be! We'd come back from selecting our food items in the dining line, and the waitress would move us to where we should sit by placing our hot tea and chopsticks in the RIGHT places. (No words of English were ever spoken between us and our wait staff. We tried to say "hello" and "thank you" in Chinese as much as we could.)
We learned that using chopsticks is pretty darn tricky! But, by having our own dining room, we could practice, practice, practice.
Wes actually is the better chopstick user of the two of us.
See that little white bowl? That is meant for eating all of the food out of. Do not use the plate for anything but meal waste (bones, wrappers, and stuff you just can't stomach) and the tea cup.
Chopsticks can rest upon the plate in between bites.
Napkins do not come with the table setting. Diners provide their own little packs and pass them out to others.
No need to use a tea strainer! Really! The tea leaves are thrown in there and they expand. The tea starts out light with the first cup, and is quite dark by the time you have your second or third cup. Sometimes only hot water is placed in the pot first, meaning you first rinse out your food bowl and rinse off the chopsticks before continuing - an ancient ritual that is still practiced these days. And the tea water is very, very hot!
The Lazy Susan is the answer for passing food between table members. The bigger the table, the bigger the Lazy Susan..
Dim Sum is the popular eating style in the Cantonese area where we stayed. Small bamboo baskets have 3 or 4 duplicate items inside. Rice dumplings wrap up the "goods" and porridge has many ingredients included inside. Some items defy explanation.
The concept of dessert at the end of the meal is quite different. We were served watermelon slices at the end of nearly every meal, which we quite liked.
All things noted, we tried our best to get it right. Certainly our hosts must have been amused as we tried with foods falling from our chopsticks, items being consumed with bones and figuring out how to remove of them discreetly, and just the way we conducted ourselves in general.
And, by the way, they say forks and knives are difficult for them...


Linnea said...

Deb-welcome back (almost!). I was thrilled to see your post, and can't wait to read all about your adventure!

Timi + Andrew said...

Wow! Quite the trip of a lifetime! Very interesting dishes as well.. I will check back for more updates very soon! Please share all your fun experience from China!

Marta said...

Deb, this is fabulous! I love learning lessons of cultural practice. The man or host sitting opposite the door norm is intriguing to me. How thoughtful of your waitress to cue you with the beverages. :) Great pictures, and I'll look forward to more!

oatley said...

Welcome Home!!!!

I've missed getting my weekly visions into your adventures and observations! Since I've never been to China, I am looking forward to traveling vicariously through your eyes.

Love, Sandi

Spirit Bear said...

The whole idea of serving food in little baskets is so appealing! Like opening little gifts. Maybe you could americanize this idea for summer picnics: what do you think? photos of "chocolate" on the way!