This is another one of those bonus blogs, i.e more than the once a week I committed myself to. Some friends of ours have retired and are setting off to China to teach for 5 months. Follow their adventures or live vicariously for a while.
Thirteen days and counting before we leave the country. Within that time we are doing all the normal pre-travel tasks… packing, bills, finishing up work obligations, yada, yada, yada. While we have a few lingering worries about leaving family, we are set to depart for Hohhot on the 20th.

Despite our preparedness, I had a worrisome thought about food.  It wasn’t a concern about the food we were going to eat.  Having been in Hohhot 3 years ago, I found both “Han” and mongolian food delicious.  Chinese food in China is mouthwatering wonderful, unlike it’s imitation here in the States.  Steamed and boiled Dumplings called jaozi and baozi are addictively tasty.  The fondue-like “hotpot” that becomes increasingly savory as the meal progresses is wonderful.  Meat and vegetables are added to the boiling broth in the center of the table where each person uses their chopsticks to snatch and eat freshly cooked morsels.  The meal likens itself to the story of Stone Soup.  No it is not the food in China that I am worried about.  It is the food that won’t be in China that causes anxiety.  I will be without my comfort food.  My American comfort food.  I realized that I have only a short amount of time to stuff myself with those favorite, frankly bad things, that I periodically crave.  I ask you, what would you miss if you went to a foreign country for almost 5 months?  The last time I was in China, I found myself desperate for what I call “sugar and fat” foods.  Cookies, chocolate, pastries etc.  You have no idea how few sweet edible items there are available in Hohhot.  This small city of 2 million is considered to be in the Chinese sticks.  There are no KFC’s, McDonald’s or Starbucks like there are in Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an. Given that ovens are generally not a cooking source bakeries are conspicuously absent.  People, we are going cold turkey with regard to American pleasure food!
When I visited Rich 3 years ago, we hunted for something that would satisfy my sweet tooth.  In a local food store we found packages of Oreo cookies.  They looked like the Oreo’s back home.  And though there was no milk in which to dunk them, I was psyched to separate the chocolate wafers and lick the vanilla icing. I believe we Americans have a crystallized memory that encompasses all of our senses when it comes to this Iconic cookie.  We know exactly how the chocolate looks and smells.  That dark almost black color.  The texture of the outside with “Oreo” stamped on each cookie.  The feel of separating wafer from icing so that one one side is exclusively chocolate cookie.  This is a memory from our childhood that continues throughout our lives reinforced each time we eat the treats.  Commercials even market these memories showing parents teaching their sons and daughters how to eat this sweet delight.  I was so in the moment of anticipation when I had that first taste……
Did you know that Nabisco has factories in each country they sell their food products?  Furthermore, did you know that they adapt their recipes to meet the tastes of the folks who live in each country, attending to cultural palettes?  Well, they do.  Though they looked like Oreo cookies, they were “Fake American” Oreos.  With the exception of the visual, everything about them was “wrong”.  Not as sweet, not as chocolaty, not as creamy inside.  Just one big NOT.  This gastronomic disappointment may have been 3 years ago, it is still vivid in my mind.
So, I have now 13 days in which to consume those foods that I anticipate craving from August to January.  This is no small feat.  In fact if I bow to my cravings, I believe I will gain at least 20 pounds before I board the China Air flight.  What to do, what to do?  Fortunately I have a birthday coming up in just over a week.  Cake and ice cream and possibly a peach cobbler are on the horizon.  As a goodbye gift to coworkers at the VA, I will graciously share my favorite doughnuts on my last day of work.  From there, who knows. So much sugar and fat, and so little time.  Sigh!
Other than this, I am good to go.
Talk to you on the other side of the world.
Affectionately,
Gail and Rich

 

 

 

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