FOODragon is very proudly presents the first guest writer on the blog. Meet Robin, a young American born Chinese woman who is kind enough to share with us her takes and views on the Chinese food culture as an insider who grew up “in the system”. More posts of her and others will follow. If you also wish contribute and share your wisdom and experience with others click here.
An ABC’s unique experience with Cantonese food
Ever since I was small, I’ve never really liked Chinese food. Until I moved to northern China, “Chinese food” for me was Hong Kong and Guangdong Province cuisine. I suspect my indifference for Cantonese food grew from the annual overdose I would be subjected to each summer when my extended family would gather in Vancouver. Without fail, breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 3 weeks straight would be Chinese food; and because it was always someone “qing”-ing someone else, it would be rich, heavy food. In the next few posts, I will describe the likes, dislikes, and sometimes just outright odd eating habits of my Chinese-American family.
Chinese family dinners for me always mean too much food. I know that I’m a picky eater when it comes to Cantonese cuisine, but even when I refuse to eat every dish, the sheer number of plates that are served leave me inevitably full. It doesn’t help that no matter who you sit next to, an auntie or uncle will always be within arm’s reach to serve you food you don’t want or can’t eat. “Serve yourself first” and “I’m full” frequently fall on deaf ears. The only solution I’ve found semi-effective is to simply stop eating, allowing pieces of food from well-meaning relatives to fill the plate. Unfortunately, Chinese restaurants regularly replace dirty plates with clean ones, leaving you with an empty plate again.
I have fond memories of 2-hour lunches at Chinese restaurants where the family would spend an additional hour discussing dinner plans (which would start in 3 hours). When my extended family got together each summer in Vancouver, the itinerary would literally be:
- 9:00am – Wake up
- 9:30am – Chinese breakfast (菠蘿包 bo1 lo4 baau1 being a family favorite)
- 10:30am – Prepare to go to lunch
- 11:00am – Lunch/Talk about where to eat for dinner
- 2:00pm – Buy tomorrow’s breakfast from a Chinese bakery/Nap
- 4:30pm – Prepare for dinner
- 5:30pm – Dinner/Talk about where to eat for lunch tomorrow
- 9:00pm – Shower/Sleep
This is why it has taken a good 10 years of summers in Vancouver to see Stanley Park. This is also why I don’t eat Chinese food unless I have to. Don’t get me wrong—I do like Cantonese food; however, sometimes too much of a good thing is just that…too much
Final Note: I do have to admit that after having lived and traveled in China, my appreciation for Chinese food (from all regions) has grown. I’m still not a fan of many regional “specialty” dishes, but I now have an affinity for 中国菜, most notably well-made xiaolongbao, jianbing from the streets of Beijing, and Sichuan hot pot.