Day Twelve: Fine Dining and Nooks and Crannies


Ever since my early childhood, fine dining has been a necessity of my culinary life. Chinese families love eating out, especially at places that serve odd Asian specialties such as shark's fin soup and duck tongues. My family was no exception, so I've had my share of the quirky Asian family reunions, highlighted by the visits from my favorite cousins and relatives.

Whenever there was a need for a banquet -- whether it was to celebrate a baby shower, a birthday, a marriage, a graduation, or anything else that our elders would deem worthy of celebration -- a banquet hall was obviously needed. Lucky for my family, most of our relations resided in the New York City area, so Chinatown and Flushing were never short of business. From halls owned by Fujianese families to fancy wine halls that catered to more delicate tastes, I've seen my fair share of the range of fine dining that exists for Asian preferences.

Although banquet nights were often long and tiring, involving long bouts of boredom punctuated by the occasional switching of the loud Chinese folk song blaring from the speakers, I'll never forget my experiences in them. They normally begin with a checking-in, where families sign their names and pick up corsages or some other courtesy of the host to identify themselves as party guests. Then, once invitations have been collected, we are shown to our seats and we meet up with the host, who promptly gives us a courteous and well-mannered introduction to some other obscure relatives who have also conveniently been invited to the same social event. After this, the adults performed some sort of ritual largely ignored by the younger generations, who would then sit tight and pretend to have something important to do while watching the other tables fill up
with older relatives. If another child their age showed up, depending on familiarity, either intense excitement or a serious effort to falsify oblivion would follow.

After this, the MC would announce some words in rapid Chinese, usually incomprehensible due to the blaring music mentioned earlier and photos would be taken. The children will be ushered onto a stage to take photos with their elders, as well as stand still for far too long. At long last, after formalities have been covered and the MC beginning his routine entertainment, food would begin to roll out. At this point, guests are starved and chopsticks dig into the food like ravens attacking carrion. Okay, perhaps not so morbid, but with the same intense hunger.

I would love to describe the night further, but my personal experiences mark this as the point when memories blur into one large blob of greasy, happy, and sugar-induced euphoria. Balloons, raffles, and conversations become a large party of the memory and somewhere I fall asleep.

But enough about Asian fine dining. You're probably wondering about the picture I posted. Lately, I've been obsessing over world cultures, with the Mediterranean diets in particular. I love their cultural foods -- feta cheese, figs, olive, red wine (although I do not yet drink and am not planning on doing so anytime soon). Thus, I decided to set up a traditional Mediterranean breakfast for myself today, in the style of the Martha Stewart layouts, though without the professional air provided by a full cast of photographers and graphic designers. Anyway, be very jealous!

Breakfast: Yogurt, poached egg, dragon fruit
Lunch: Chicken sandwich
Dinner: White rice, Blueberry and tomato salad, Steamed carrots
Snack: Feta and fig jam on whole grain crackers

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