白斩鸡Last Thursday morning, in the middle of conference call with my clients, I got a SMS from my friend Chris, it read “ring me, asap!” Ten minutes later I phoned him.
“Wassup, Dude ?” I hushed.
“Can you and your gf come for dinner tomorrow night ?” Chris greeted me with his usual rushing manner ?
"What’s wrong with you ? It’s Friday night, Dude, you knew I gotta go to the Club with her .” I paused, “ Are you guys okay? You need an arbitrator or something ? “ I joked.
“No, we are good,” Chris was laughing out, “Michelle and her mom are making some special things for you, you gotta be here, man!”
“What’s it? “ I was curious.
“I can’t tell you, she is going to “kill” me!” I almost could see the “fear” wearing on Chris face from the other end.
“Are you serious ? alright, give me few mins, I’ll give you the confirmation.”
I hung up the phone. I know Chris, a hedge-fund manager, for fairly a short time. He is a Chinese dude who comes from HK. A buddy of mine, Nick, introduced him to me at a sports party, and after that we hit quit well, especially the part of playing tennis and hand balls at the courts of the gym. We have had dinner parties many times in his place and my Apt, and his wife Michelle is one of my biggest fans for listening and enjoying my jokes, often giggling like a little girl after the punch lines. Michelle is from same city where I grew up , and she is younger than me. She used to be an assistant bond trader, and now she is a stay-home mom for her “daughter”, Ginger, a two years old goldendoodle. Naturally, since Michelle and I can speak the same dialect, we’d talk about lots of thingamajig in our hometown whenever we meet. Chris can speak Cantonese and understand most of mandarin we speak, but when it comes to the dialect Michelle and I use, he is absolutely out of his league.
It almost took no effort for me to ask my gf to switch our Friday night plan; she loves and fascinates about anything that related China from its culture to food, even things that has little or faint lineage that can be traced to China. As the matter of fact, when I told her the dinner invitation, she got pretty excited, partially it’s contributed to the new Chinese styled dresses she bought for the CNY parties.
Let me sidetrack a bit here. I am telling you, unlike us, women love to dress up for going parties. In fact, they oftentimes would be eager to go to parties to show off their new outfits or jewelries. We , on the other spectrum, like to dress down a bit, a beat-up jean and a comfortable cotton t-shirt would be just fine for the dinner party at friends’ homes. But to honor my “Zuo” MM’s request and “threat”, I put shirt and tie.
Chris was quite right, he’d be better not tell me anything to ruin the surprises because when I first saw their dinner table at their dinner room, I was totally shocked by how many dishes Michelle’s parents and her had prepared. Man, that was like a good-old–days CNY eve replay, except different time and different space.
Nowadays thing changes a lot in terms of holiday family reunion scene. Instead of asking their child going back home, many parents from China actually come to oversee child’s home for celebrating CNY. This was the first time for me to meet Michelle parents; they were very nice to my gf and me. They even gave my gf and me each a red pocket with RMB in them, that was quite fun. Their reason was that it is the tradition for elders to give Hongbao to unmarried youngsters.
I was touched by abundances and quality in those dishes they made. To tell the truth, I did not expect anything like this grandiose. Michelle whispered to me that to make the traditional SH styled feast, her mom even asked her to drive her to Brooklyn in order to buy a live free ranged chicken ( I never knew people can buy live chicken in the city) for making her legendary Baizhanji, which is an absolutely gastronomical delight. Forget about other famous dishes which were extremely delicious on the table, just this chicken dish alone would put me in the heaven for a moment as the tender, juicy, flavorful and succulent flush passed through my palate. In my own opinion, the chicken dish is equal and possible better than that from Xiaoshaoxing restaurant in SH.
Needless to say, the dinner party was an incredible enjoyment for everyone at the table as we were drinking, talking and laughing together. My “Zuo” MM said to me that “ I wish I can be a Chinese like you guys and make a dinner like that.” I tormented her “ Sorry, you may try to dress like us, speak like us and drink like us, but you just can’t be us, that’s our birth right!” My good natured teasing made every one laughing their heads off. To comfort her and reduce her embarrassment, I gave my gf a big hug as a sincere apology.
This dinner party was a godsend CNY gift for me who was not able to going home, but for that night I almost felt the at-homeness from a faraway city form my clinching heart.
To most people I know, they don’t like chickens, no matter how the birds are cooked. Maybe it is because their taste preference or because of chickens, which have received so much bad raps. In fact, I could not even think of a good idiom or a positive phrase and connotation that give chickens some deserved reputation. On the contrary, chickens apparently are often equivalent to some notorious and flagitious terms in China and America.
But, I like "chicks" and chickens a lot. Maybe I am a seriously biased person. In my humble opinion, under a good chef’s attention, chicken meat can be one of the most delicious meats in the world, way tastier than poorly prepared pork, beef or lamb dishes. Back then when I was in schools in China, the chicken porridge and Baizhanji from Xiaoshaoxing were my favorite snacks, I’d never got tired of them. But, in America or in other countries I traveled , I have never found any restaurant that can make a really good chicken dish as good as Xiaoshaoxing even those restaurants may get Michelin highest ratings. To indulge my prejudice, I think, Chinese chefs make the best chicken dishes, Italians or French may compete the title of the second place; Americans ? please take a number and wait on the line ! Do you know McDonalds’s mcmugguts have over 30 ingredients in them? go figure! So next time, if you’d taste some unidentifiable piece meat or exotic dishes, please don’t say “it’s taste just like chicken.” Chances are, they are not since the real chicken dishes may not only shorten the physical distance between you and your love ones but also cure your homesickness sometime.