As everyone get worked up by the parades and fireworks for the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, I can't help but notice that, six decades on, we've actually made zero progress in naming a dish for our nation.
In a span of six decades, the Communist has managed to transform China from a nation of poverty to one of prosperity. Case in point, every grey-brick courtyard and garden of Old Peking are bulldozed for boxy and uniform high-rises; every prostitute and concubinage -- the so-called the feudal relic of capitalism, are swept from the street to make room for san pei xiaojie (hostess who accompanies clients in drinking, singing and dancing). As a economy that's growing leaps and bound sadly though, there's naught at the dining table to honor the spirit of 1.3 billion people.
The more I think about this, the more the news of all these jubilations become grated on my ears. In fact, I gnash my teeth just to think how hapless and directionless we are on this. Look around, where's the daizibao (大痣報) for this? We survive the daguofan (big cauldron of canteen food), outlast the Red Guards, and even bar the fabulous Gang of Four, yet we fall short to determine what our national dish is?! Is this the personification of egalitarianism or the art of idling, or altogether a joke?!
Alas, had Chairman Mao still be alive today, he would have echoed my loathing for this too. After all, he is the guy who once said that eating is the greatest problem for mankind.
"A revolution is not a dinner party, pussy-losers!" So said Chairman Mao. Such statement can't be truer today than ever. Taking this discourse by heart, I decided it's time like this that summons a benevolent dictatorship and it's time for me to bombard the headquarters of haughtiness and to reinstall the true nature of my countryman -- just to show how loyal I'm to Chairman Mao. Ah, what's the English term for this endeavor? All this for us to have a say (話"乳"權) at the dining table.
So mark this the day, my dearest comrade, the eve of Oct 1, 2009, with Chairman Mao's little red book (毛主席乳露語錄) in my hand and my head facing towards the waving national flag high at the Tiananmen Square, I proudly and solemnly, announce, scrambled eggs and tomatoes is our national dish.
Set on the eve of the Sino-Japanese War, Fortress Besieged recounts the exuberant misadventures of the hapless hero Fang Hung-chien. After aimlessly studying in Europe at his family's expense, he returns to Shanghai armed with a bogus degree from a fake university. On the French liner back, Fang's life becomes deeply entangled with those of two Chinese beauties -- when he does finally make it home, he obtains a teaching post at a newly established university, encounters effete pseudo-intellectuals, and falls into a disastrous marriage. A glorious tale of love, marriage, war, calamity, disillusionment and hope, this is one of the greatest Chinese novels, combing Eastern philosophy, Western traditions, adventures, tragicomedy and satire to create a unique feast of delights.
For dinner that evening, his mother herself prepared fried shredded eel, chicken wings in soy sauce, stewed chicken with melon and shrimps cooked in wine -- all his favorite local dishes. She picked out the best pieces for his bowl, saying, 'How terrible it must have been for you, living abroad for four years with nothing to eat!'
Everyone laughed and said she was at it again. If a person ate nothing abroad, how could Hung-chien keep from starving to death?
She said, 'I can't understand how those foreign devils stay alive! All that bread and milk. I couldn't eat them if they gave them to me free.'
Hung-chien suddenly felt that in this family atmosphere the war was something unbelievable, just as no one can think of ghosts in broad daylight. His parents' hopes and plans left no room for any unforeseen circumstances. Seeing them thus so firmly in control of the future, he too took heart and thought that maybe the situation in Shanghai would be eased, and there would be no outbreak of hostilities. And if there were, they could be brushed aside and ignored.
My heart really skipped a beat when I read such a stunning discovery as I leafed through a local newspapers leisurely just the other day.
Against all odds, a scholar in China has, after 2 years of searching and digging and, equally lengthy time of Mr. Sarkozy's presidency, come to the conclusion that Mr. Sarkozy, the 23rd President of the French Republic, is in fact a man of Chinese ancestry.
To begin with, the acclaimed scholar points out the fact that Sarkozy is the son of Nagy Bocsay Sarkozy Pal, who's no less a Hungarian aristocrat himself. This one is easy, as our ace historian reckoned: Nagy means big and Pal means Paul in Hungarian, whereas Bocsay means the clan of Bocs inJurchen (whose link to Hungarian as Tungusic people is strong), which means altogether it sums up Paul of Sarkozy family of the big Bocs clan. To keep up with the Joneses, the scholar goes further to say that such style of naming kids bears no difference to what we do in China -- say, the third son of the Zhang's family of Xidan Hutong.
As if the discretion level of his oddball elaboration isn't already high enough, the scholar goes on to unveil the background of Sarkozy's granny. The Chinese root of Ms. Csafordi Toth Katalin, he says, can't be more visibly apparent. Not only is there a piece of entry for Toth in Jinshi, the History of Jin as a family name, but also is there a significant nomadic people called Xianbei of whom the Csafordi tribe was belonged to once upon a time. So authentic is Sarkozy as a common last name back in the good o'days of China that he even asserts that Sarkozy family could have emigrated to Hungary from China as recent as the Qing dynasty.
And if all this stands accurate, then there's only one thing left for Sarkozy to prove that he's not a prodigal son. He should remember the saying about returning home clothed in glory (on Airbus rather than Boeing of course). The way I see it, the only way for Sarkozy to fulfill his filial duties is to return home on the Ching Ming Festival to offer obeisance at his family temple, attend to the ancestral graves and make acquaintances with local notables.
But before I order my posses to sound the drums and gongs to welcome Sarko boy's homecoming, I'm struck by a pounding question myself, which is, where shall he go to, given the vastness of China as a country?
Dang, where the hell is the root for the Sarkozys' in the Middle Kingdom? The last thing I want is to let the President of France navigating for his root in China on the off chance.
Muddleheaded, I pick up the takeaway menu of my favorite chachaanteng, of where I learned much of the geography about China from.
The first dish I notice is Fujian fried rice. Could the Sarkozys' be the descendent of Fujianese? Yet, my limited culinary knowledge tells me that there's no such thing as Fujian fried rice in Fujian. People living in Fujian knows nothing about Fujian fried rice just the same way alike Bill Clinton was totally in the dark about there's already an authorized translation of his biography selling in China before it was officially released in his home country.
Next up is a dish called Yangzhou fried rice. Mmm, who's to say the Sarkozys' can't be spawned in Yangzhou in the first place? I have no sooner illustrate this point further than my less than cuddly waitress gives a big scoff at it. Check out the chaxiu (BBQ pork) in it. Yangzhou fried rice was invented here in Hong Kong for sure, and you call yourself a foodie?!
No matter. I go deeper at the menu and flaunt the last entry of page, the Hainan chicken rice to my waitress. Bitch this, bitch! The Sarkozys' might as well come from Hainan. But which style of Hainan chicken rice you're talking about? The ones by Singaporean, Thai or Malay? Once (I) have the best Hainan chicken rice of my life in Bangkok. Yum yum.
Though I'm this close to a breakdown, I somehow start to get her point. I mean, what's the point of evocative name if it has gotten nothing to do with the place it engaged? To make matters worse, I have had a Hainan chicken rice in Hainan not that long ago (last month to be exact) and it was absolutely one of the worst Hainan chicken rices I've ever had in my life. Even the Hainanese reckons the same. They have with them what they called the four famous dishes of Hainan and guess what -- none of them is Hainan chicken rice.
The lesson is simple I think: who cares where it comes from as long as it rules?
Fugui, the prodigal son of a wealthy country landowner, squanders the fortunes of his family in gambling dens and brothels. He has little respect for his father and still less for his father-in-law. He neglects his daughter and is abusive toward his wife.
The following is from a scene where his wife Jiazhen was trying to insinuate Fugui to stop fooling around with a dinner she made.
One day I came home from town and, just as I sat down at the dinner table, I noticed a strange smile on her face as she brought out four different dishes. She poured me a glass of wine and sat down next to me while I ate and drank. Her beaming expression seemed a bit strange. I couldn't imagine what good fortune had befallen her. I thought as hard as I could, but couldn't figure out what the special occasion was. I asked her, but she wouldn't say. She just gazed at me with a strange, elated smile on her face. Those four dishes were all vegetable dishes. Jiazhen had prepared each one differently, but as I got to the bottom, I started to find pieces of pork hidden in each dish. At first I didn't really pay attention to this, but as I ate the last dish, I discovered that there was again a piece of meat on the bottom. At first I was stumped but then I began to laugh out loud. I understand what Jiazhen was up to. She was trying to teach me that although women all look different on the outside, when you get down to it they are all the same.
Fact is, as dimsumlicious as they're to look at, they're not edible at all.
Fact is, despite the close resemblance of what they're ostensibly shaped for, say, hargaw, siumai, chaxiubao and what not, they're nothing but candles.
Fact is, even though the maker claims that they smell exactly like what they appeared of, they're still nothing but w-a-x. And I can assure the fact that you'll get burned if you ever try to swallow it to validate that claim.
Factually, I wouldn't recommend such attempt for these are made in China, which automatically makes them stand a slim chance to pass even the flimsiest safety standard around the globe. I repeat, they're Made in China; so bedroom x gluttony fetishfun at your own peril.