Friday, April 21, 2006

Eat Drink Man Woman

I am sitting in the library checking my email. One of my colleagues, Jian Lin, a neurologist from China, is at the terminal next to mine. For some reason we've hit it off rather well, in spite of my curmudgeonly manner. Jian is a very friendly person and, even though I'm not sure how much English he understands, we both love to talk about food.

"Hey!" he says, sliding up to me. "We are cooking fish tonight. Come eat with us."

Jian lives with two other Chinese guys. They take turns cooking supper for each other. Jian's told me about their feasts. A few nights ago they made pigs' feet.

"Thank you," I decline politely. "My friend is coming back from New York this evening and I have to go home and clean the house." It's true.

"What?!" he says disbelievingly. "Call him and tell him."

"I can't, he'll be flying soon."

Jian looks disappointed.

"Today is the weekend," he says bringing his fingers to his lips and kissing them to indicate what a good time we could have.

"How do you cook the fish?" I ask.

"You know how to cook fish?!" he looks at me incredulously.

"No, I don't know how to cook anything," I reassure him. "How do you cook it?"

"Well, we take a, " he motions with his hands to shape a pan, "Put in some oil, some spices, some water."

"Oh, ok."

"It is delicious," he says, his eyes lighting up.

"I'm sure it is." Words are poor instruments to describe the pleasure of a good meal shared with friends. Even plain fare like daal chawal takes on the splendor of biryani when eaten with the right people. And achaar. And papad.

"It is a shame," Jian repeats graciously.

"I hope you have a good meal."

"Next time," he says.


Anonymous Bushra said...

Chinese eat weird food. Fried cockroaches (they even have recipes on google!), monkey brains (what is it called? cerebospinal fluid?)... ugh

12:02 AM  
Blogger karrvakarela said...

China's a pretty big country (or a big pretty country, whichever you like) so I don't think it's fair to make casual generalisations like that. Each region has its own culture and its own cuisine and I'm not sure everyone eats monkey brains.

9:36 AM  
Blogger akds said...

I've always been impressed with how ridiculously organized Chinese students are when it comes to cooking duties among roommates.

In retrospect, when I was sharing a place with roommates, I think we ordered pizza every other day.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Shahnazzz said...

So true - the company makes all the difference!

I have been greedily reading your blog since I discovered it, earlier today. Very smart, evocative, down-to-earth writing.

5:24 AM  

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