Staying Grounded

September 9, 2013 at 5:39 pm 2 comments

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Dressed in a nice suit and feeling smug and entitled, it was easy to forget the image of the barefoot boy in the rice paddies catching frogs for dinner. It would take an incident to bring it back and rearrange my priorities.

One lovely Saturday, I was invited to a Chinese-Vietnamese wedding. I skipped the church part but did manage to go to the reception on time. It was held at a famous Chinese restaurant in San Francisco.

The bride and groom danced to Keith Urban’s song, ‘Making Memories of Us’. They were a lovely pair to behold. Looking at them, I had no doubt they’d be happy together.

The Vietnamese bride looked so beautiful on her white wedding gown. It must have cost an arm and a leg, but that’s as far as I’d go in speculating about the actual price. I’ve got this tendency to always underestimate the cost of what women wear. I remember the time when I accompanied somebody at Victoria’s Secret. Ii ended up telling myself, “What, that little thingy costs that much! I’ll be darned!”

The Chinese groom looked great, too, in his rented tuxedo, and as Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

The 250 or so guests were treated to a sumptuous 10-course dinner served in the following order:

  1. Cold platter composed of spice beef shank, jellyfish salad, drunken chicken, char siu, and smoked duck
  2. Phoenix tail prawn stuffed with seafood mousse
  3. Sautéed sea scallops
  4. Supreme sharks fin soup with shredded chicken
  5. Braised whole abalone on a bed of greens
  6. Peking duck served with fluffy mandarin buns
  7. Tender mustard green hearts sautéed with bamboo pith
  8. Steamed fresh black bass in a ginger scallion and shaoxing wine broth
  9. Fried rice
  10. Chilled mango pudding

By the 7th course, I was full. I could hardly eat anymore.

I asked an elderly Chinese seating beside me why they served rice at the very end.

“For a banquet like this,” he said, “rice is the least important part of the meal. If they serve it at the beginning, you won’t have room for the best stuff.”

“Rice is considered blue collar,” he chuckled. “Blue collar people have it on their table first because it’s filling and, besides, they don’t have much to serve anyway.”

I don’t know why, but I didn’t like the way he said it. It almost made me throw up. I felt insulted. After all, I’m from a blue collar stock.

In fairness to the guy, he was probably just being matter-of-factly and didn’t intend to offend. He doesn’t even know me, and, come to think of it, even if he does, what’s wrong with being reminded of one’s humble beginnings? If anything, it helps keep you grounded.

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