last night i had terrific chinese food, prepared by my new chinese relative h. i had heard tales of her (and her non-chinese husband's) terrific meals, and was really pleased to be included and taste the goods. i sat at the kitchen island and watched the experts at work. when i asked "what kind of oil is that?" and got "chinese oil" as the answer, i had an epiphany.
don't treat this like a cooking lesson in hopes of recreating it later--leave chinese cooking to the chinese. drink your belgian beer, and breathe in the chili smell in the air, and behave nicely so you can get invited back again. but don't try to learn what to do. you will never do it right.
this worked out well, and i very much enjoyed my incredibly spicy meal. i mean one dish was literally potatoes and chopped jalapenos. i cried, i sweated, i shook, and i loved it. there was also cabbage/bacon/chilis, celery and spicy red pepper, pork and eggplant, and a delicious hot and sour soup. and port for dessert.
all plates went in the middle of the table, and everyone had his/her own bowl of white rice. we helped ourselves in small portions, moving the food from the table plate to our personal bowls. anything that involves bowls, chopsticks, and communal eating really appeals to me, so this made me happy.
in closing: does anyone know what you call your sister-in-law's brother and your sister-in-law's sister-in-law? this isn't the set-up to a joke, i really am wondering if there is a name for such a thing.