Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Farmer and Some Moon Cakes

This past Saturday Clif's work hosted family day.  There were tractors, free dinner* and games for the kiddies so we loaded up our kiddo and headed out. 

First stop was the door prize table. MJ scored a truck that looked suspiciously like a character from the movie Cars. Copyright infringement???  Maybe they got a bargain at the local copy market?

Clif and I got a bag of goodies. I taste tested most of the items.
Here is a quick review:
Puppet: Fishy flavored Styrofoam.
Mystery Candy: It looked liked chocolate covered carmel or toffee on the packaging. It was spit out.
Kitty Sticks: Prawn flavored mini-bread sticks.  Not too bad. 
USA Green "Pers": Dried and/or baked and seasoned peas, probably the best thing I tasted, still not good.

I chose not to try the pork-in-a-bag or the chocolate sucker. China loves to put meat in bags, but for some reason I have no desire to eat meat that has been vacuum sealed with a cartoon pig on the label.

We also got Moon Cakes in honor of Mid-Autumn festival coming up in October.  If you want to learn more about it you can go here: Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival
Moon cakes are basically small round cakes with a filling.  I have been told the filling varies depending on where you are in China.  Traditional to this area is sweetened red bean paste. 

Fancy packaging is popular here.  China does not skimp on good quality boxes for packaging.  

Clif says, "Tastes like Fig Newton." And yes, Clif did eat something with bean in it!

MJ was welcomed with celebrity status.  Clif's co-workers have been earger to meet MJ.  Something about a Western baby draws a crowd.  What is the first thing they say you may be thinking?
1. How old is she? (Side note: Many Chinese babies do not leave the house for a month or longer.)
2. Who is taking care of your wife? (Side side note: Most Chinese have a family member move in with them to take care of the baby while the wife recovers for the first month and then continues to care for the child when the wife returns to work.  Clif has even been scolded for not hiring someone to take care of me)

The night's main attraction was skits put on by each of the groups in Clif's building.

As the night progress I noticed Clif was about the only ISE who got roped into performing.  Even though he failed to attend most of the practices, I would say he made a pretty good farmer, even if his head was a smidge too big for his hat.

MJ Clif and I were getting tired so we ended the night with a family photo-op. 

*We opted for the Western option, spaghetti with mashed potatoes, which is better than the typical western food items Clif has encounter at work i.e. cake wrapped in bread.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lunch - You Get What You Pay For

I'm told I am lucky, I get choices for lunch. Not "the same old slop." Three choices actually: A, B and C:

  • Option A is called the rice option. It consists of 4-5 small platters and a bowl of rice. The platters contain different meats and vegetables, which varies each day.
  • Option B is the noodle choice, and comes with a bowl of noodles and 1-2 small plates. Usually the platters are from the A option. Sometimes instead of noodles, they serve dumplings which is always a safe choice.
  • Option C is the western/vegetarian choice. It's western because it comes with a Chinese version of western food - usually bread based. I had a corn sandwich recently, drizzled in syrup. Once it was purple cake wrapped in bread.
In general the food isn't very good, even by the standards of my Chinese coworkers. A former expat once said "The only good thing is it's free." Free food at work is an expectation in the Chinese culture; I think we get what we pay for. This picture below shows a fairly typical A choice, I eat stuff like this every day. I'll break it down so you can have a glimpse into my daily life.

In the top left corner is a plate containing tofu and some kind of fibrous vegetable like celery but round and hollow. Some of the veggies resemble weeds, this is one like that. It was served in a spicy sauce - too spicy for my western tongue. They used to serve 5 plates, but lately they've been combining two into one. That annoys me greatly.

Bottom left is a beef dish they serve often, sometimes with potatoes. It's quite delicious but some days the meat is bony. The sauce tastes a like barbeque but is runny and does a great job sprucing up the white rice.

Middle top is some kind of cucumber/zucchini/egg plant/squash...I'm not sure which. It was cooked down to a mush and served in a sweet sauce.  One bite was enough, food texture is important to me and this felt like it had been digested twice but the taste wasn't terrible.

Middle bottom was a new one - his was the first time I tried this dish. There was some debate among coworks about it being pork or chicken. I think it was processed chicken, molded onto a left-over drumstick bone and puffed up with air. It was heavily spiced and felt like a boiled sponge. Barf.

The bowl on the bottom right contains rice and desert. The rice is always welcome because it fills the space all the other food would if I ate it. I like to pour some sauce on the rice, but not too much because, if it is slick, chopsticks won't pick it up. The desert is a dough ball stuffed with a dark goo and rolled in sesame seeds...not sweet like candy or cake, but sweet. Sometimes they serve flat bread or a bun instead of this dough ball.

In the top right is a peach juice box and green (unripened) orange. They always offer a juice, soda or yoghurt but the white boxes are the best. The fruit selection varies by the day and generally people won't eat it without washing or peeling it first. On this day everyone was amazed I'd never eaten a green orange. "Don't they have that in the states?"

And I do it all with chopsticks. They'll offer a fork but laugh about it when I accept. I came to China with a basic chopstick skill set. I've since gotten pretty good....for an American. It is still impossible for me to eat as fast as my coworkers, but they're polite and wait for me to finish stop eating.