Sunday, July 24, 2011
CHINESE WEDDING FEAST
Five hours after arriving in Shanghai we were heading out to a Chinese wedding reception. We'd had a few hours sleep, a nice shower, and put on our best clothes. We hoped we could give the evening our best shot, hoped we had left the jet lag behind in the hotel room.
What would lie ahead? We had no idea.
As we entered the venue tables were laid out ahead of us, draped in red, and looking quite beautiful and inviting. We were surprised to be seated at the table of the bride and groom. We felt very honoured indeed. The groom is a colleague of my husband's, and a native of Newcastle, the bride a born and bread Shanghai girl who speaks English with a distinct Geordie accent. Very amusing. Soon we were seated, and the food began to arrive.
Plates of food were brought to the table, and each one looking more delicious than the other, with a couple of exceptions. I just could not have partaken in the chicken head and feet combo!
Also a whole duck displayed from head to tail on the plate, and for some reason unknown to us, tied with a red ribbon, made us move quickly onto something more palatable. And there were certainly no shortage of delicious looking dishes.
Later when we heard the beak and anus had to be eaten, we were relieved we had missed out on this delicacy.
Shrimp and lobster, chicken and pork, a bowl of hot pepper soup were a few of the offerings. Everything coated in tasty sauces, and more than a few of them a challenge to our chopstick skills. By the end of the evening we were becoming quite proficient and by the end of the holiday were managing without any problems at all. Well, we did eat Chinese twice a day for 15 days! Except for a couple of falls by the wayside, once, when one lunchtime Subway called our name, and on another evening when the food on offer was of an international flavour. But apart from that we certainly embraced the Eastern Cuisine with open arms.
As soon as one plate was empty it was replaced by another plate, just as interesting and inviting as the one before. The arrival of food went on for several hours. People got up and socialised, then would come back to eat some more. It was all very different from what we were used to, but very enjoyable.
One plate which had just been brought to the table was looking very appetising. I wasn't sure what it was, it looked like pork fillet covered in a sauce. I was now getting very brave, maybe it was the few glasses of wine, or the jet lag kicking in, but I decided on this occasion to just go for it
I struggled to hold it between my chopsticks, it felt slippery. But also aware of eyes on me, I realised I had gone beyond the point of no return! I managed to lift it to my lips and as it entered I could feel the weirdest texture fill my mouth. The only way I can describe it is as lying somewhere between spongy and gelatinous. Not great. However, I managed to overcome the textural issue and realised there was no real flavour to it. When I finally asked what it was I was told it was sea cucumber. So, nothing awful, but not the most pleasant thing I'd ever eaten. However I was told this was not the best one and I really should try it again. Maybe not just yet!
Dessert arrived in the form of fresh fruit plates piled high. Melon, watermelon, dragon fruit and lychees. A delicious end to a delicious feast.
I was so happy to have been part of this celebration. It was a wonderful start to our Chinese adventure. Travel is a wonderful way of broadening the mind and of appreciating other cultures, and to be part of this special day will live with me forever. I fell in love with China, the people, the food and the culture, and hope to go back one day.
I want to end this blog with a picture of the happy couple and to wish them a long and happy life together. Also to thank them for including us in their celebrations and starting our holiday out with a bang, and I am not talking about the amazing firework display at the end of the night. Thank you Albert and Wen.