Oh, the hierarchies we live by. We have prizes, titles, inventions, foods, discoveries, gold medals, histories, educational degrees, VIPs, events and heads of state. Even heaven contains rankings that include the left and the right hand, archangels, regular angels followed by cherubim and seraphim. We annually commemorate the first of the year, important discoveries, great leaders, great wars, birthdays and anniversaries. That split second difference between the Olympian gold and silver might be cause for considering the nature of best and what that means. “First” is, above all (Ha!), a means of sequencing.
China is a country of many firsts*. We know it can legitimately claim to have invented pasta. Likewise, they are credited with the invention of gunpowder, which includes their famed fireworks. Since this week is the beginning of the Chinese New Year, one can assume that those fireworks will be bursting bright in many Asian skies for the next fifteen days. In fact, the Chinese probably were the first to celebrate a new year as they began more than 4,500 years ago. They too acknowledge the import of light and renewal in life as they end this celebration with the Lantern Festival.
Cultures near and far have adopted Chinese fireworks, pasta, and certain celebratory practices and made them their own. Food is always part of the social fabric of a culture. Instead of saying hello, a typical Chinese greeting is “Have you eaten?” Now that’s a welcome. Another Chinese invention is fast food, only their version focused on fresh, nourishing and satisfying. At this time of year, when our winter weary pantries are beginning to need a fresh approach, we can take a page from their Chinese parchment.
Speaking of parchment, the Chinese also invented the mystery story. Based on an historical figure from the Tang Dynasty, “The Celebrated Cases of Magistrate Dee Goong An” was written some 700 years later. During his lifetime, a Tang administration magistrate was not only the judge, but also the investigating detective and the jury. Take that Miss Marple! As is usual in such situations, Judge Dee had cohorts. Among them was a reformed criminal, Chiao Tai, who was known for his discriminating passion for steaming bowls of noodles. In Chiao Tai’s honor, today’s recipe is Chaio’s Roots and Shrimp Noodle Bowl. So prepare your taste buds for a slurp-worthy bowl. Slurp-worthy? Where does that fall in the culinary hierarchy? Well, one mouthful and you really won’t care.