Once upon a time, there was a Chinese woman and an American woman

August 18th, 2011 by | Country: Great Britain | 1 Comment »

The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.

~Henry Boye


Once upon a time there was a woman from the US, the most powerful country today, and a woman from China, a country that is going to be powerful in this century.  The woman from China, Sophia, began her journey in London last summer by beginning to learn to speak English by taking an English as a Second Language course.  Then, the woman from the US, I, arrived in the fall, during the rainy weather, in London.

One day, these two very confused girls went to the office of their department to sort out their schedules and they so happened to be in the same space at the same moment.  Shortly after trying to put together some puzzle pieces regarding their school issues, they introduced themselves to each other.  “Where are you from?” I asked the slender woman with beautiful long black hair.

“China,” said Sophia, “Where are you from?”

“The States,” I said.

We exchanged each other’s phone numbers and the rest became history.

She has been my cooking partner, study partner, travel partner and partner-in-crime.  While studying for our masters in anthropology, we exchanged our stories and knowledge of our own culture and home life.

We spent the year in London enjoying all the joys of baking in our kitchens.  Introducing Sophia to western cuisine, particularly desserts, such as brownies, rainbow cake, and banana bread, was truly an eye opener for her as many of them do not exist in China or are very rare.  I’ll never forget watching her eating the chocolate chip cookies and while I was talking, she said, “Sorry to interrupt, but these cookies are DELICIOUS!”  I laughed.

Sophia and I made Valentine's Day Cookies

Sophia and I made Valentine’s Day Cookies

Til this day, I am still stunned by the fact that ovens are rarely found in homes in China.  I remember when Sophia first told me about this situation, I said “WTF?!”  This was a shocking moment because I wondered how can she get to enjoy the scrumptious bites of banana bread, pumpkin cookies, blondies, Valentine’s cookies, pizza, bread, lasagna and all the dishes that are baked in an oven.  In my home in America, I normally use the oven several times throughout the week, and so it’s really an integral appliance in our family life.  However, having seen how she cooks as a Chinese without the oven, I realize that we can still enjoy wonderful food, but with just a different taste palate like stir fried vegetables and meat and hot pot, a traditional Chinese dish I newly discovered.

Friends and I gather for a hot pot.

Friends and I gather for a hot pot.

For those who do not know what a hot pot is, it is a pot that boils water and we put all kinds of food, including meat, vegetables and fish in it and cook it.  The pot cooks the food unbelievably fast.  We also add spices to add rich taste to the food. According to Sophia, the hot pot is a core material to social gatherings among friends in China.  A hot pot is typically placed in middle of a table and friends gather around the table and take food out of the pot with chopsticks and transfer it to the plates.  While nibbling on the food from the hot pot, people chat.

“I think I should open a bakery,” Sophia giggled.

“Maybe you should?” I said.

“I’m kidding,” said Sophia.

Months passed by.  “You know what, Rachel?,” Sophia said one day at the British Library, while we were taking bites of a very delicious blueberry cheesecake, “I thought I was joking about opening up a bakery, but I am now really serious about it.”  In the past several months, Sophia and I have been discussing her visions to open a bakery in China with a goal of opening up the Chinese to different cultures and broadening their horizons without leaving their homeland.  We will see where she will proceed next…

Then aside from learning about our day to day life of eating in our homeland, we also discussed political and economic situations and stereotypes.  This topic will follow in the next post.

1 Comment

September 15, 2011 at 5:31 am

[...] much on the trip.  So, we went to a big “hot pot” restaurant.  As a mentioned in a previous post, hot pot is a Chinese dish where families and friends will gather around at a table and cook food [...]

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