1000 a Day – Day 8

Short, unrelated memories:

One of the most popular drinks in China is ??, “suan nai,” “sour milk,” yogurt. It’s a little unlike US yogurt because it’s much thinner, meant to be consumed with a straw. And there’s no such thing as “plain” yogurt, something quite popular in the States right now; there least flavor you can get is “sweet.” And when I say consumed with a straw, I meant it; you know how in the States some times yogurts come with little plastic spoons so it’s convenient for you to eat? Well I have a fridge full of tiny little straws that can attest to just how much yogurt I’ve bought but used a spoon instead of the “recommend” utensil to eat. When I was young, the only kind I ate was from off the street. I remember that there would be huge pickup trucks with a bed full of crates, all full of yogurt. They came in these round, ceramic jugs, sealed at the top with a piece of paper and a rubber band. These crates would get delivered to all the local convenience stores and shops full in the mornings, and picked up at night full of empty jugs. The particular time I remember was in the summer, behind the pick up truck, with men standing on the bed of the truck, handing out jugs in exchange for money. I’d give him the bills, very inexpensive by the way, and he’d hand me a yogurt and a straw, I’d puncture the sealing paper with the straw and I’d just stand there and contentedly drink. Incidentally, I’ve discovered that the ceramic jugs themselves are also quite cheap to purchase as I bought some for the restaurant to put fake flowers in. They work quite well as individual flower vases. For those arty folks out there, I highly suggest obtaining some. It is quite unlike any other yogurt I’ve ever had before, and I remember that in the States, whenever I’d come close to this long ago flavor, I’d always think back on it fondly. It’s actually sort of like Chinese vanilla ice cream, which again, tastes nothing like US vanilla ice cream. I remember once at San Dimas Dam, a park in Southern California, that an ice cream man pushing around a little cart had a popsicle that tasted an awful lot like the ones I had in China when young. I remember going there to bike with my father, and getting this popsicle every time.

Winters in China are traditionally cold, in Beijing that is. There’d be snow, rain, sleet, hail, and all the lakes and rivers would freeze over. It’s actually warmed up a bit these last few years, and this past time when moving over, I’d specifically asked if it still snows in China, with many of the answers being “no.” Probably just for me then, this has been one of the coldest and worst winters in China in recent history. It snowed on us this past Sunday actually, trying to get to Hong Kong and delayed our flight about an hour. Despite the cold and the inconvenience, I still love it. But the memory is of ice skating at YuYuanTan, a local park within walking distance from my grand parent’s house. Maria’s actually taken quite a few runs there and I’ve uploaded some of them to this blog. Despite the “No Ice Skating” sign posted prominently all over the place, I remember as a child heading out onto the ice with the maid. I didn’t know how to ice skate at the time, so all I could do was sit on this foldable stool that had been converted into a sled and get pushed around by those who knew how. It was actually a service you could buy, much like renting ice skates. These people had taken old skates off of old shoes and tied them to the bottom of this stool. You’d pay them some money and they’d push you around for fifteen minutes while you sit. I remember being able to hear the man pushing me breathing hard, the sound of his skate scratching as he pushed off step by step, and the wind from across the frozen lake top blowing in my face. I still don’t know how to ice skate by the way, and unfortunately such services don’t exist, as far as I know, in the States. Though people still operate this way in China, and it’s my regret that this past winter I was far too busy to do any ice “skating” out on the frozen over lakes. Ah well, there’s always next winter.

There’s this special kind of Chinese sausage that I’ve always enjoyed. It’s been salted and dried so it will last longer, is most likely made of pork, but has a very nice sweetness to it as well when you eat it. It’s a bit fatty, like most Chinese meats, so a bit oily when cooked. It’s traditionally sliced thin and served as is since it’s already fully cooked, but sometimes it’s pan fried or served in soup. I also loved this sausage when I was a child, and being a preserved dish, it was something we could afford to have on hand. The maid would always pan fry it for me, something that thankfully doesn’t need cooking oil since the meat is so fatty anyways. I remember she’d always cut one in half, fry it up, and give it to me on a small plate with a piece of Chinese steamed bread. I really liked them cooked this way because of the small bits of crispiness along the edges. The maid, though live in, also has her days off, once a week. One time, when she wasn’t there, I really wanted this sausage, so my cousin took it upon herself to make it for me. This would be my female cousin, Michelle, one of my father’s older brother’s two daughters. She did her best to make it for me, but unfortunately burned the sausages as they cooked, trying to attain that crispiness that I liked. She was also young at the time, a teenager, and she cried on the bedroom table when she burned my sausages. I ate them anyways, and promised her that they tasted very good nonetheless, and that it wasn’t her fault, and that I was thankful she cooked them for me.

Edit: I wonder what I’d have to do to make WordPress render Chinese…I could swear this isn’t the first time I’ve tried, with success the last few times. I wonder if something’s changed or my memory’s just faulty. Hmm…..

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