Maybe it would be easier if there was one place I could identify as ‘home’, leaving all others to be ‘not home’. But as a second generation Army brat, that’s not the way things work. I was born in Columbus, OH. Ft. Sill is the home of the Field Artillery and thus has been the occasional residence of the Holland for decades. We’ve spent 15 years or so in Minnesota, but I now tend to refer to it as “my parent’s home” instead of claiming it for my own. Tulsa feels like home in a lot of ways but my recent return did remind me how transient are the things that make it feel that way. And then there’s China – and two places there, no less.
What I’m saying is that, no matter where I am, there are a lot of places for me to miss.
There’s a girl here at TU, a Physics grad student, who went to XiaDa. We exchanged a few emails and became friends on facebook before I left, but we didn’t actually meet until the second week of classes or so. It was so much fun to talk to her! I could hear the southern accent that I found so annoying but now identify as familiar, and we were able to talk about really specific things from Xiamen! Between that and all the people heading back for another semester, I am definitely missing it a bit.
I’ve had a thing for hamburgers (medium rare and dripping, preferably) since I got back, so I haven’t been too disconsolate over the lack of good Chinese food in America. I guess it’s mostly like I felt when I was in China – the food was good, so I didn’t usually crave things too badly. The worst, though, is when someone mentions a food and you realize that you couldn’t get it even if you did want it. I mean, I had not thought of tang yuan since I came back, but when 汤圆 came up in my flashcards today I felt like I would kill for just one. Mmmmmmm . . .
I haven’t been to a Chinese restaurant since coming back, but I have been working on my cooking skills since getting back to TU – after all, there’s only enough free food for about 5 lunches a week and maybe a dinner or two. One night last weekend I invited a few friends over for my Chinese cooking debut.
On the menu:
- 木须肉, or Mushu Pork – Pork, egg, wood ear (a kind of mushroom), carrots, ginger, and garlic
- 地三鮮, or Eggplant, Potato, and Pepper
- 西红柿炒蛋, or Egg ‘n Tomato
It was my first time cooking with eggplant and I didn’t cook them nearly enough, but I thought the Mushu pork was amazing and the flavor of the egg ‘n tomato was good too.
A few days later, I tried again. This time, I made:
- 宫保鸡丁, or Kungpao Chicken
- 红烧茄子, or Eggplant Braised in Soy Sauce
- 西红柿炒蛋, or Egg ‘n Tomato (a staple!!)
I did much better with the eggplant this time, cooking it until it went limp with deliciousness. That dish tasted almost like China! The main difference was that the recipe called for a pound of meat, which is approximately 17 times more meat than I’ve ever seen in it in China! The Kungpao chicken was not nearly spicy enough AND I forgot the peanuts, but it tasted good if you didn’t know what it was supposed to taste like.
This dinner was a lot of fun because the guests were my roommmate, Alli; Liang Huan, the girl from XiaDa; and Kristin, a friend who just returned from study abroad in India.
There were parts of both meals that I wasn’t 100% pleased with, but the second was better than the first and, according to Newton’s Method, that bodes well for future attempts!