The Death of Chinese Food and Other Ironies

Ahoy honey bunnies, I’m back. What’s new under the red sun? Bfff, same old, same old. My days are characterised by the not so unfamiliar amplitude of shuffling-droning between hyper-complaisant and maniac freak-outs on a daily (hourly?) basis, but well, that’s the way it goes in hormone world. Perhaps I might´ve gotten too soaked up lately in news like the Shanghai metro crash that injured about 70 people and Steve Job’s exiting. China´s Apple´s most bustling new market and the Iphone 5 anticipators got pretty depressed. Even my 5th graders were keen to have an entire class on his life and innovations. A topic that initially they’d brought up. Btw, I generally see 1 in every 5 students flashing an Iphone 4 at school.

Also, I read and read, you know, Wikiing, for instance, where you get linked from one bit to another and in the end you forget which article you wanted to check on the first place. So one day, I bump into Timothy Leary’s quote on feeling “an anonymous institutional employee who drove to work each morning in a long line of commuter cars and drove home each night and drank martinis…like several million middle-class, liberal, intellectual robot.” I don’t drive nor drink and my intellectual activity is exhausted by transmitting the difference between think and sink to a bunch of borderline puberteans kids, and I find that the ambience somehow fits. Strangely enough, I find some consolation in this. Must be the middle class part, then. And the long lines.

But then again, tomorrow I’ll be the happiest kislány on this planet. Coming to think of it, maybe my new Hemp Hand Protector cream plays some role in the more tranquil nano-seconds? I usually put some on (loads on) before a class so after a few minutes, as I am dutifully flailing in the midst of a live grammar broadcast, I quickly get embraced by the solid and formidable fragrance of marihuana. The kids suddenly seem happier, too. And, for one moment, let us imagine, shall we not, the bunch of our witty dermatologists in their lab experimenting with Cannabis. Ooh, strictly against testing on animals. God bless you, Body Shop, Inc.

Oh, this reminds me. The other day Dan and I ventured out for a romantic walk in the French Concession, when I was still living there. At around decent 8 pm. During the first 15 minutes 3 different, trick-or-treat, dealers (and then the first one again with the micro-memory) asked him, oh no, whispered stealthily from a tree trunk: Dà Má, Dà Má (大麻.) I’ve lived here for over a year now, why do they have to approach the most innocent looking guy in town? But well, I guess, in return, I got the old ladies in the subway. I happen to stand, squeeze and breathe for survival in a train (nah, I do not hear people clipping their nails laboriously next to me)  and out of the blue, a Chinese mamma, not knowing her way around town find it most convenient to inquire info from me, the legal alien in their thick dialect about …something? The best I love in this is how the other passengers react when they assess the set-up. They look at me right and deep in the eye and acknowledge my smiling is justifiable. They smile back and eventually tell the lady off cheerfully. Bueno. Moo ha ha.


Administratively speaking, I’m way better off at the mo than a month ago. Now that the school sponsors my full lodging and I am gradually getting used to the Chinese working environment, even amidst my swirling vortex of entropy I feel I’m taken care of all right. Besides, I’ve more maos to burn on the latest edition of Channel lipsticks. I should be so happy, yes. Suddenly there’s a new list of randomness in my life that I find equally amusing and educating. My self-confidence gets some daily boosting-grooming when a flock of students, waiting in front of the cafeteria, spot me, go off shouting my name so loud and so tireless zeal that I began to feel like a sort of celebrity. Then, it turns out the chick, Judy, who sits opposite me in the office, is keen to learn Spanish. From me, por qué no. In return, she’ll teach me Judo. There you go, I’m gonna learn Judo from Judy. Polly, the 3d grade teacher, will trade her Mandarin for some Spanish classes, too.

I also love the fact that all the classrooms are adorned with motivational Chinese idioms, which I sneak-peek at, while the pupils are scribbling at a dictation I happen to be torturing them with. Plus you know all the complimentary listening exercise from those who think if they speak Chinese, loud and pacing the syllables, I will eventually understand. My granny used to do that, speaking Hungarian in slow-motion with my foreign friends, who stood there patiently and waited until I filled them in with the translation.

What cheers me up early school-day mornings, for instance, is the porter in our Teachers’ Apartment building, who greets me with the energetic “Xiong Ya Li, ni hao!”, thrusting his arm up in salutation, while he is puffing on his digestive Double Happiness in front of the building. Been ever so confused about my identity for quite a long while now, so it is beyond funny to be greeted by my country’s name first thing of the day.

And anyways, I love this chap, he helped me carry a lorryful load of Ikea dispensables up to my 12th floor flat on my first salary day. When I told him my country of origin, he immediately responded with the broadest smile, bellowing Petőfi or rather Péi Duo Fēi, Péi Duo Fēi (裴多菲) a few times. Yep yep, everyone seems to know about our answer to the Scottish Burns; his poem of Szabadság, Szerelem, e kettő kell nekem, sounds familiar to most and many are ready to recite it on the spot with beaming enthusiasm. Warms me heart better than a bone-marrow hotpot on a winter’s evening.

Ay, ok. Navigating slowly towards the topic of the day, food. I went to Wuhan last week. Most enlightening. Ready? Description begins. Bueno, I had this, once again naïve, observation, back in Chengdu last year, that jeez errr there might be a huge ontological problem behind this concept: Chinese food. Wuhan got my revelation confirmed big time this time. Empirically speaking, this should not even exist. Do we ever talk about European food? The way we just shove many different dishes under this umbrella term, well, guys, it’s time we stopped.

I’ll post pics of some of the dishes we’ve tried there but first of all the one thing every visitor to Wuhan must learn is the word re gan mian (热干面). Hot, dry noodles. This 4 mao bowl of a simple culinary stanza was one of the best breakfast experiences I’ve ever had. Spicy and texture perfect as it should be. Available at most make-shift garage corner-eateries. The sizzling cabbage and hot soup were my other favourites, which again had this particular, black pepper looking, spice that makes the side of your tongue tingle for a couple of hours. I had this in Chengdu, Sichuan (where else) last May and was happy to got surprised with this in Wuhan, too.

To be cont. in the Wuhan Feed section.

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This entry was posted in Eat Pray Move, Rhapsodies and Blues, Trips in China. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Death of Chinese Food and Other Ironies

  1. Hudit, thanks for the comment, Dà Má means marihuana.

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