I ate my favorite meals these last two days in preparation for my upcoming departure.
- 红油水饺 – red oil dumplings
- 花生奶 或 豆奶 – peanut or soy milk
- 番茄炒蛋 – tomato and eggs
- 茄子豆用 – eggplant and beans
- 草莓果汁, 冰的 – strawberry juice, cold
These items appear to be quite vegetarian-friendly. They are. You may think, then, that I am vegetarian. I am not.
It’s true. I am a devoted meat-eater. I salivate over prime rib like nobody’s business. And yet, my favorite meals (excepting the dumplings) lack meat. I blame the use of garlic. I am helpless against its heady scent. The dumplings that I mentioned are quite meaty, as are most dumplings in China. It’s difficult to find completely vegetarian dumplings. Oftentimes, 麻婆豆腐 (mapo tofu) comes with ground meat. I don’t have a problem with that (tofu and meat together is a no-brainer for me), but it’s a mess for those who don’t eat meat.
The tomato and eggs as well as the eggplant dish come from my usual lunch place outside of 小北门 (Little North Gate). They are served on top of rice, served in a sizzling-hot bowl. You don’t touch the bowl. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, the rice on the bottom crisps up a little. Then, when you eat it, parts of it gets stuck to your molars in all of its chewy-crunchy goodness. Yum? Yum.
I got take-out. I wanted to say goodbye to the faces I have come to know. The people who have smiled at me in recognition, who remembered my order. I don’t know their names, but I know their smiles.
I don’t think they know I was saying goodbye. I went around 12:30pm, which is of course the lunch rush. Usually I go around 1pm, to avoid the rush, but hell. I was hungry. So I missed the timing, and waved from afar as I left with my food.
People ask me what I’ll miss about my time in China. I tell them it’s the people. (It’s mostly the food, let’s be honest).