Confessions of a chopsticks novice
By Devin Young, AACA Youth Leadership Coordinator
Since moving to Boston and beginning my AmeriCorps service in Chinatown, I have encountered many Chinese traditions that were previously unknown to me. The first occurred on my first day, when I went to dim sum with my coworkers. It took me a while to even make out what people were saying when they uttered those two words, so I had no idea what to expect. What I found at the restaurant was a pleasant surprise. Laminated menus allowed customers to write how many of each item they wanted, a social process of sharing similar to potluck or Thanksgiving dinner. A lazy susan allowed for easy access to lots of cheap food. What could be better! Not to mention that the food was delicious. I soon found myself stuffed with dumplings, noodles, rice and much more. At that point, I wondered about my boss’ theory that everyone who works in Chinatown becomes fat from Chinese food. Regardless, it looked like my stay in Boston was going to be a tasty one.
Little did I know, however, that things were about to get even better. Following that experience, I had my first encounter with hot pot. This adventure had a rickety start when I was assigned the task of purchasing beef. I went into the Chinese market and picked up a hunk of beef, the only one of its kind in sight. When I was in line, I asked the cashier if it was the right beef for hot pot. The customer in front of me looked at it and said that it should be fine. However, when I got to the party, I found that this was not the case. Everyone shared a good laugh when I removed my purchase from its bag. I didn’t know the beef was supposed to be sliced into thin strips!
I soon forgot my blunder, though, when I saw the spread before me. An array of vegetables, meat, noodles and tofu covered the table next to the bubbling pot. My cohorts walked me through the process of tossing in components and fishing them out for consumption. In no time at all, I was again full to the brim with delicious beef, lamb, mushrooms, noodles, tofu, pork and the list goes on. More importantly, I again found the tradition to revolve around sharing, helping and an overall communal experience. I admire the way the Chinese culinary customs promote this type of community and hope to experience more of Chinese culture that Boston has to offer soon! Hopefully, my chopsticks skills will improve as well.
This post is also available in: Chinese