Today I woke up late, but everything still goes as planned. I brush my teeth, put in my contacts, and try getting dressed as fast as I can since my host mother has the tendency to yell from outside my door at around 6:35 a.m., “Lexi, it is time for breakfast.” It is about 6:55 a.m. when we leave the house so my host mom is driving fast so that my host sister is not late. Although I believe our lateness can be attributed to my waking up late and having a million things to do to get ready, I enjoy the wind blowing in my face and the way in which the Chinese have (strangely enough) achieved a sense of order in all of this chaos. We arrive at school only a minute late and I tell my host sister goodbye. It’s ninety-one degrees, my white sneakers are still dirty, and I keep slapping mosquitoes away–I’m ready for what the day has in store.
After about what feels like a century, the groups arrives at Yangzhou University where we are greeted by a group of twelve students who will assist us for the day. We tour the cooking classrooms and watch as students prepare to make traditional Chinese dishes. I notice that they conduct themselves well. They are disciplined–you can tell by the way they look at the food. They are confident–you can tell by their posture. They are careful–you can tell by the way in which they angle their knives, making sure to cut the meats and veggies at different degrees. Chinese cooking is a craft, a skill, a system.
After touring, the group watched as a chef showed us how to make two dishes (one that involved pork, egg, and tomatoes and the other fried rice). This was a dream come true. I have watched the food network since I was four and I record almost every episode of Chopped on my TV at home. There is something about cooking–something about the taste and smell that greets me–that understands.
After the demonstration, the group was allowed to prepare the same dish on our own. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to do that and I think everyone grew a new appreciation for the art of cooking. All in all, this day has taught me that:
- Sometimes you’re late, but it’s okay
- Ninety-one degrees is hot
- MSG is bad for you, but so good
- The Chinese connect with their food on a deep, spiritual level
- I’m ready for Chopped