Friday, July 18, 2008

Day 18: Dim Sum Memories

We had dinner at Mary, Paul and Joy's tonight (pineapple pizza, yum!) and afterwards we watched some of their video footage of China for the first time. We've watched a little of ours, but they clearly had a larger understanding of how time passes and have included lots of handy narration and establishing shots. Our favorite part is how the camera is focused on the babies, nice and steady, when we first saw them, and suddenly it dives to the floor, then swoops all around the room like a trapped swallow. What happened is that Mary and Paul unexpectedly had their name called first, and then we just as unexpectedly had our name called second. We were playing "Hot Potato" with that camera because we were so freaked out when our names were called.

Some of the footage showed us with the babies on the bus that took us back to the hotel. Joy is stoically sucking on a biter biscuit, and Jarrah is luxuriating over a flat, round biscuit the size of her head. We started reminiscing about some of our food experiences in China, including one night when our reps arranged a Chinese banquet for us in our hotel. Who knows how authentic it was, but the hotel is in central China, not a tourist town. David remembers that we started with some wickedly hot soup, and then there was an extremely sweet and yummy "chicken" dish (Sam: "Do not even THINK about telling me what this really is. I'm just going to eat it and call it chicken.") and some kind of green beans in special sauce that were memorably delicious. The babies all had noodles, extremely LOOOONG noodles (which are good luck during Chinese New Year) and they looked so cute slurping them into their mouths. In Chongqing, it was more common to have noodles than rice, even though everyone thinks they eat rice everywhere in China. Our wait staff were the sweetest people, doting on us and smiling indulgently. And it was such a relief to be able to get into the elevator and get off at a lavishly set table where all we had to do was sit down and eat.

It was extremely complicated getting meals in Chongqing, especially dinner when we were no longer out-and-about with our reps. By then, we were wrecked with exhaustion from a full-day of unfamiliar parenting, but not willing to wander the streets with a new baby hoping to find food we recognized. Other families were venturing out for "Hot-Pot," where meat, seafood and vegetables are cooked in a super-spicy broth, but my people eat bland food, and Mary's a vegetarian, so we were wary.

A couple nights we ordered pizza from the Pizza Hut down the block (one of the few places we recognized) and ate it on the floor in the hallway between our rooms. We left the doors open in case the babies cried. I don't remember that they did. I do remember that the pizza wasn't very good, but I didn't care because it was hot and had cheese on it and my needs had become rather simplified in recent days. More than a few times, I'm ashamed to admit, I sent David across the square to the massive McDonald's for a Big Mac. There was something about the familiarity of the whole experience that brought tears to my eyes. Once we even brought the babies to McDonald's, which brought us a lot of attention. Everything there was the same except a curious beverage, not on the menu, that we saw everyone drinking and had to inquire about. It turned out to be a passion fruit soda with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it. Hello, why can't they have that here? It was scary good.

After a few days, we started experimenting with some of the snack items that were featured in the grocery and convenience stores. They were often packaged in small, colorful plastic pouches and contained something totally delicious and not quite recognizable. Tonight Mary showed me that she actually saved several of these snacks (unopened, of course) to show Joy later, relics from her hometown. Some of them have English writing on them; most don't. One candy bar is called "Caesar Wave," and a package in the shape of a cow is "Jumping Dragon." A hazelnut chocolate bar is called "Kinder Bueno"--I'm sure the kinder find it bueno indeed.

One tiny package features a cartoon of a little boy singing into a microphone in front of a drum set. The only English on the wrapper says "Ball Cake." In a sense, this description is incredibly good: they are little crackers that taste like cake in the shape of balls about 1/2 an inch in diameter. They remind me a bit of those things they used to float on Clam Chowder in the '70s. But they taste sweet and cakey in an uncloying way. The girls went nuts for them. At some point during the trip, Mary and Paul started calling them "China buns," and the China buns have had a lasting legacy. Jarrah and Joy have China buns, too, as it happens. And they both know it. If you ask Jarrah to dance, she will often shake her tush vigorously while shouting "China buns! Look a' my China buns!" She talks about my China buns, too, and when I tried explaining why this was not quite accurate, she adapted: now I have New York buns.

I wonder if the New York buns would be shaped like little bagels?


Mary said...

What a sweet post!

We had a great time tonight with you three!

Over here, all our buns are called deemed, "China," even the kitty's!

I love remembering with you!



Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

"but my people eat bland food"

It is phrases like this that make me LOVE you as a writer. With a few simple and well-placed words, you radiate the adjectives real, articulate and clever.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Also "uncloying." You use words like that every time. It's hawt.

The Wades said...

i agree with cheri. i loved that exact phrase! :) can you imagine my excitement when i saw "in an uncloying way"!!! i know cloy, i know cloy! :) my vocab game paid off.

i'm still waiting on roister.

i enjoyed the heck out of this post. i cannot imagine finding myself with a new baby and unfamiliar food! you were brave, brave people!!