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Food for Thought

Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

8 oktober 2009 - The kitchen table of Chinese Master students Yu Xiang (22), Yu Lu (23), Lie Xiao (23) and Jin Zhu (22) is full of big pans and dishes containing goodies. Having chopsticks and bowls at the ready, the Cursor guest can get started straight away. ***
The menu features drumsticks, Chinese cabbage, celery, a dish of beef and potatoes, and rice, of course. The beef-potato mix is not a typically Chinese dish. “We have actually thought of this ourselves. It’s probably more European”, say the four students (Electrical Engineering and Embedded Systems). “But we just like it very much and often prepare it.”***
They eat at breakneck speed. For beginners wielding chopsticks it is virtually impossible to keep up with them. Especially rice is difficult to catch. “We agree with that too, so it is more common to hold the bowl near your mouth and shove the rice in like that”, demonstrates Yu. Contrary to Europeans, the Chinese do not distribute the food on plates. Everybody can just take their pick from the dishes on the table. “That explains why we eat so fast. Otherwise all the tastiest tidbits have already gone”, they say jokingly. ***
When Jin has had enough, she quickly leaves the table so as to be in time to hike a lift to Germany. Lugging a Hema bag full of tompouces (millefeuilles), liquorice and treacle waffles she is going to visit a couple of friends. Jin has a really sweet tooth, say the boys. “She eats candies all day!” She has a special liking for Haw flakes, traditional Chinese candy. These flimsy slices, packed in a small roll, are made of Hawthorn fruit. ***
A dessert is not customary in China. After dinner, the Chinese usually have some tea or fruit. The extensive rack of desserts in Dutch supermarkets is entirely new to them. Lie: “I really love your ‘vla’ (custard), especially the chocolate flavor.” Nevertheless, the students are not taking over that Dutch custom. Yu: “It doesn’t seem healthy to me to have dessert every night. Is that not extremely fattening?”

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Photo: Bart van Overbeeke