Chop, Chop, Chicken

Eating at the restaurant with Chinese people is quite an experience. There are so many rules of etiquette to follow. First and foremost, only one person pays and this person orders all the food for everyone. If he or she does it right, there will be lots of food leftover (no one went home hungry). Also, intestines and other parts rarely eaten by foreigners are considered delicacies.

Soup with strips of pig belly. Had a bowl, not so bad.

Vegetables and pig intestine. Tried it, almost spit it out but managed to swallow it.

Deep fried whole fish caught in little pools on the mountain. Ate a half dozen, so crispy they could have been anything.

I rarely paid for a meal with Chinese friends, once losing an actual hand-to-hand combat with Mrs. Pu over who got possession of the bill.

One rule I find amusing is that it’s ok to eat with your mouth open, speak with your mouth full or slurp your food but when picking our teeth with a toothpick you must cover your mouth with your opposite hand.

My biggest pet peeve is the way they serve chicken. They chop it up in small pieces so that there is not one piece left without a bone. This way, you put the piece in your mouth (using chopsticks), eat the meat and spit out the bone. Hands never touch any of the food.

The head is always left on. Some people like to eat it.

Typical chopping up of the drumstick and serving of chicken in restaurants and grocery stores.

Notice the cooked head on the platter.

Plates of chicken ready for delivery to the table. Notice the piglets hanging in the background.

 After a meal, it is always interesting to see the carnage left behind.

Guess who was sitting at the chair with the coke can.

I do like the idea of ordering a bunch of plates and then choosing what you will eat. Anything left over has not been touched by anyone and can be taken home. There are no served plates with uneaten and wasted food left behind because Jimmy doesn’t like broccoli, or the foreigner doesn’t like pig intestine.

 

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Made in China

I remember once in Ottawa trying to give a hockey puck to a visiting Italian friend as a gift from Canada. Every puck I found was made in Slovakia (89 cents each). Finally I found one made in Canada for $5. It is not easy finding a Canadian souvenir actually made in Canada.

We brought Canada Flag lapel pins as gifts for our new friends here in China, all made in China. We finally found some art work made and printed in Canada and of course maple syrup to bring as gifts during our stay here.

The best thing about visiting China is bringing home gifts. Everything is made in China! Everything is super cheap!!  It can all be found under one roof!!!

The wonderful Mr. Pu took us to the souvenir supermarket yesterday. Seven floors of souvenir stalls and junk items. It was like a Dolarama on steroids. My best find was a little plastic cow key-chain that moo’s and has a little LED light when you push the tiny button. My favourite find was a watch with a wooden strap and mounting.

 

Happy Birthday Papa

My father was born on July 10th, 1935 in Berlin, Germany. He grew up during the war and as a young man decided he had had enough of Germany and decided to immigrate to Canada. In 1956, he settled in Ottawa, for the simple reason that it was Canada’s capital and therefor, must be a good city. He knew 3 words of English, “yes, no, hello”.

Luckily, he had a job as a baker upon his arrival. He did this for a few years and then worked in the now shut down E.B.Eddy (Domtar) paper-mill for close to 30 years.

As he worked shifts for his entire career, we did not get to spend as much time together as we would have liked. However, at that time, a father was expected to bring home money and provide for his children (and sometimes only allowed to do this), a job he performed excellently. He still found time to take us fishing, skidooing etc, on his days off or his one weekend off every third weekend.

This immigrant managed to build a family, buy a home, cars, snowmobiles, build a cottage etc. Basically, he was a success story.

My father has a strong character an often gets under peoples skin. He says it as he believes it is, nothing is hidden or sugar coated. I love him very much and I am very happy to have him as a father. I am so very proud of him.

My late aunt Marlene (who never had her tongue in her pocket (a French expression)) said this about him, which sums up a lot about my dad.

“No matter how much you disliked him or how much he disliked you, if you called him at 3 am and asked for his help, he would be there.”

Happy birthday papa. I wish you many more as I still need my loving papa.

The big deck, Chengdu

Early in our China adventures we went on a Chinese organized tour of Chengdu. We were the only non-Chinese people on the bus and were quite an oddity. We visited a UNESCO national park which was a beautiful wonder for all the Chinese tourists. For us, it was backyard Canada. As the Chinese marveled at this natural wonder, we marveled at the Chinese.As I admired the boardwalk, which was many, many kilometers long, I wondered how they got the 2×4’s up the mountain to build the deck. I figured they used a helicopter.In fact, the boardwalk went was so high up I had to stop half way to the top because I felt physically ill. The light air was killing me and I had to slowly walk my way back down the mountain, resting often.On the way down, I found out how they got the materials up the mountain. Next time my students complain about unloading the wood truck and carrying the lumber 100 feet into the school I will show them these pictures.

Deep Fried Shrimp

One of the foods I am really going to miss from China is their shrimp. These delicious (the most popular English word used by the Chinese to describe food) little guys are made in many different ways but deep fried is my absolute favourite. When you order the deep fried shrimp at the restaurant you are expected to go to the restaurant’s aquariums and fish out your live shrimp with a net. The shrimp are then weighed and fried, completely as is.

When the shrimp come to your table, the shell is still on. You pick up the shrimp in your chop sticks so that the tail and head are on the side of the chopsticks facing away from you with the body facing towards you. You bite off the body, shell and little feetsie’s complete, savour the shrimp as you crunch it up in your mouth and swallow, and discard the head and tail in your discard plate. (The young man above is an amateur, holding the shrimp completely wrong but getting an A for effort with the sticks).

Being the lazy person that I am and being not too good with the sticks, I also eat the tail. It is no different from eating a crispy french fry.

In the photo above, the shrimp are deep fried in tea leaves. The wonderful Mr. Pu thought it was funny that Liebling would eat the tea leaves, apparently not done here, even though they are more edible than shrimp shells.

In the photo below the shrimp are deep fried and simmered in a very spicy sauce. Truly delicious (there’s that word again, it is time to go home).

Strangely enough, there are no such thing as egg rolls or Fortune Cookies in China. So much for the bad spelling in the fortune cookies in North America. I guess they are really written by Canadian High school students during their summer jobs.

The Nutcracker, with a twist

Last night we went to see the Xmas classic ballet, The Nutcracker. We invited the wonderful Mr. Pu and his wife MeiHao. Taking them to the ballet is the only way for us to return the pleasure of having them as friends, as Mr. Pu always refuses to let us pay for our dinners/outings with him. Previously, we had seen Notre-Dame de Paris and another ballet with them.Much to everyone’s surprise, The Nutcracker ballet turned into the Nutcracker Magic/Acrobat show. Very interesting but not at all what we expected. Especially since the pamphlet advertising the show displayed ballerinas.It seemed the director threw in every Chinese acrobatic trick in the book from plate spinning to contortionism. I kept looking for the motorcycles in the round metal sphere to appear.Having seen these tricks a few times already, I was not as much in awe of the performance as Mr.Pu and his wife. However, all the acrobatic tricks were one up on what we had already seen and the performance was a visual feast.The show was very impressive and the performers were true athletes. I can barely walk and hold hands with Liebling at the same time and here was a man holding a ballerina in the palm of his hand while she danced.I know I am too old to become a contortionist or a dancer but I left the show with a strong desire to learn how to juggle.

 

The Son of ……

At the Chen Clan Academy, which I have been to 6 times this past year, they have displays of various traditional Chinese folk arts. One of my favourites is the wood carving above. It is made from one single piece of camphor wood and has 18 lobsters and 48 crabs.

The photo below of the name plate for the wood carving tells you all you need to know about the wood carving.  What I find particularly interesting is that the artist, after completing this fantastic piece of art, is not given credit as an amazing artist. He is said to be the son of “the famous wood carving artist Chen Shunqiang”.

Talk about living in the shadow of your father.

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