So it was a normal Friday night, except I live in China and my landlord, his wife, and daughter came over to teach us how to cook dumplings, or as they are called here, jiao zi.
This magical thing happens when you move somewhere that operates in a language you don’t know: You figure out that people are really similar all over the world. For example, most dads are going to be proud of their five year old daughters. Most moms are going to tell you about a recipe their grandma told them, and most kids will draw a picture and give it to you. So, these people who we have only met once when they fixed our bathroom came over to show us that even though their english was broken, they were willing to go the extra mile to make us feel welcome.
Our landlord has owned our apartment for years and used to live their himself. I don’t understand the way china does real estate. He said his English name is Michael because he liked Michael Jackson/Jordan. He, his wife Harriet and daughter Carol came over to help us make a traditional meal. We bought flour, and they brought every thing else.
When they showed up they had gifts which made my heart feel like it could spill over. Two drawings from Carol, a hair catcher for our bathroom drain (something I tried to order online but just couldn’t figure out), and a silk fan from The Forbidden City. All these things, and they were helping us make dinner?! Amazing.
First, they showed us how to make the dough which was just flour and water. You get a bowl of flour and add water little by little while gently kneading it. After you get a dough, let it rest for thirty minutes. While it was resting we talked about places to visit in the city, how Harriet and Michael had met, and how amazing Carol is at five years old. They honestly seemed so curious as to how comfortable we were in the apartment, did we like china, what were the differences from America. I mean we were curious too! They told us about how the streets and bus stops were named and we live right off of Safe World bus stop, so that is comforting.
After the dough came the filling which they had prepared. Harriet and Carol were busting out these jiao zi, it was amazing. Johnny and I struggled to keep up with their pace but eventually I made some nice looking ones. They were very kind, it made me feel comfortable with making mistakes. Our living room floor is covered with flour, but it didn’t matter to me.
After a while the jiao zi were made, and it was time to boil them and eat! We set out plates, vinegar, and bowls. The delicious jiao zi were gone in seconds, but Harriet kept making more for us to keep in our freezer. She said we can freeze them and keep them for month, or we can cook them the next morning. This meal is typically a family event where everyone takes part in making the food. You could tell which ones Johnny and I made, but that didn’t mean they were any less delicious.
I feel so much more comfortable in my own kitchen now after seeing someone else use it effectively. I have looked up recipes for sweet potato pancakes, how to make street food at home, and now know how to make my own fresh noodles. Like how cool is it to know I can just MAKE noodles? This is 100% a night I won’t forget, when where we were shown incredible kindness in our Chinese home. It makes me feel even better about out choice to come here.
Hey when I come back to the states, jiao zi party anyone?