It was a subtle battle of cuisines. A good friend offered to cook traditional Italian food in our home this week, so the typical Chinese fare was shelved for one night. All family members were invited to partake but as the only foreigner in the family, I was the only one excited.
My friend cooked up the Italian version of polenta, something I have only eaten sporadically in my life, and it was full of various cheeses, complemented with fried mushrooms and a rich vegetable stew that acted like gravy. In addition, she whipped up a dish of broccoli pasta that the kids devoured, a bonus for the little ones not always keen for greens.
The Chinese partakers ate without grand exclamations, nodding politely. Afterwards, it was my mother-in-law who offered to do the dishes, seemingly relieved to recover her place in the kitchen.
About thirty minutes later, she emerged from the kitchen with a steaming plate of jiaozi. “I had enough filling leftover from yesterday and so I thought I’d make you some of my homemade dumplings to take home with you for your work week,” she said to my friend, eyes twinkling. I knew this was her way of saying, Your cuisine was okay, but it doesn’t compare to Chinese food!
My friend was touched by this gesture, completely unaware of the competitive flavour folded up neatly into each dumpling. She even ate a few right there on the spot. But I know my friend. To her, Chinese food is no match for the perfection of Italian. There is no contest.
I had to smirk to see such rivaling culinary positions, each without a drop of malice, occupying their own side of the table, proudly. Gastronomical focus aside, I’m just happy to be one of the eaters.
Photos: Courtesy of Ember Swift