Monday, December 20, 2010

Imperial Li- Eating like an emperor

Last week Saturday was a clash of cultures: China vs America. And...I have to say, China won.

First, we ended up accidentally eating imperial food for lunch. Yes, imperial--from the emperor--the kind of food that the Chinese emperor used to eat (before he got ousted from office in 1911).

We were looking for a place for lunch and I knew that one of Thomas' class mates' parents had just opened a new restaurant, so we went to check it out. I thought it would be a pretty casual Chinese restaurant, but after we walked in we quickly realized it was quite fancy. In fact, it was amazing, and I had some of the best food I've ever had.

During the lunch, we learned that the great-great-grandparent of Thomas's class mate really had worked for the emperor, way back when there still was one. Apparently he was the head of the guards and in charge of keeping the emperor safe, which included being in charge of what meals were prepared for the emperor. Apparently, the great-great-grandfather memorized all the recipes and then handed them down to his children. Years later-- after the emperor was gone and even the cultural revolution had washed across China--the grandson (the grandparent of Thomas' class mate) opened up his first restaurant, which later lead to a chain of Family Li Imperial Cuisine restaurants in Shanghai, Beijing, and Tokyo.

So the food was really imperial and certainly tasted like it. We ate from lots of little dishes that wave-by-wave arrived at our table: duck, cooked celery, lotus root, sweet and sour pork, ... delicious.

After lunch we had a quick peek at the photo gallery at the restaurant which showed Mick Jagger, Jackie Chan, and Henry Paulson (a former U.S. Treasury Secretary) visiting. We certainly were in good company! :-)

So that was China. One point for China.

Then later that same Saturday, we delved into American culture. I've lived 10 years in the U.S. and never bothered to make a gingerbread house, so I don't quite know what possessed me to try to make one last week. But our "club house" had organized an event, the kids wanted to go, so we went.

What a disaster! I'd like to blame the materials, the lighting, the table cloth, (something, anything, but me), but I could not put together these gingerbread houses. Any time I glued the roof on, the walls would be collapsing underneath. (You can see in the pictures what these houses are supposed to be like, and what mine looked like.)

Picture: what a gingerbread house is supposed to look like.

It was a "kid activity", but the kids were impatiently waiting for me to somehow build a house, so that they could just glue some candy on top. Well, around me little mansions were being erected, and all I had was 2 sets of 6 loose plates with glue all over them. (The "glue" by the way, was just cake icing, and if you ask me, it did not glue at all.)

At some point, a Chinese man came over to help me with my houses. I think that when a Chinese guy comes over to help you with your gingerbread house, you really are in trouble. The kids, at that point, were already gone, playing somewhere else in the building.

When the second house collapsed, I declared defeat. Among the sympathetic looks of my fellow gingerbread house makers, I picked up the pieces (literally) and walked out. Never again am I building a gingerbread house.

Picture: What my gingerbread houses looked like (foreground).

So that was America: 0
China vs America: 1:0

I vote for more Imperial Li and less gingerbread houses in my future.

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