Thursday, January 11, 2024


It has a happy ending. Except for the main character. Everybody else has a lovely meal with juicy savoury bits, scallions, ginger, chilipaste ... And, of course, sauces! Reduced pan juices enriched with a splash of sherry, a drizzle of soy sauce, a little sugar added to the pan. Plus rice, and fried buns Northern style, and a nice bowl of hot soup: cress, stock, ginger.

Some Flemish plum sauce would be nice too.
Tangy, sharp, sweet, intense.

All of this prompted by a sign that promised a fat little sheep. The original language made fairly clear that the meat was meant for the hotpot or grill, contextually, but in English I was momentarily entranced by the idea of a charming sheepling gamboling through a fresh verdant field on a lovely spring day, not a care in the world.

It's sliced thin and would fry up in a pan nicely.

Just imagine an old Manchu courtyard in Peking, nineteen thirties, with four or five men shielded from the bitter cold in poofy long coats, two or three layers, perhaps with thick blankets draped around their shoulders, standing around a hot grill under the eaves away from the wind, at twilight. Thin slices of meat, alternating fat and lean, streaky, perfuming the winter air. A small side table carries a tray of condiments. There's row of wheat buns along the edge of the grill, and, of course, a large metal teapot keeping warm there too.

It sounds absolutely lovely, doesn't it?

A plate of split scallion lengths for adding to the buns into which one stuffs the hot meat is necessary. Warmed old rice wine would be nice. The war seems so very far away. The thin fellow with the glasses remarks that it reminds him of an essay by a Sung Dynasty official written before the tatar invasions which drove everyone south. Prescient, in a way.
Fore-shadowing what will happen in a few short years.

The soft melody from an erhu sounds faintly from one or two courtyards over. Perhaps Old Liang is in his belvedere wiling away the time. We should have invited him too. Quick, send Second Ding over to tell him to come, there is food! And we have extra blankets! Bring the instrument! Grace us with your presence! And your erudite wit.

It was well below fifty degrees when I first went out this morning. Quite beastly. Grilled meat for breakfast would probably have been lovely, and I should be napping right now covered with thick comforters. Instead of reading the news in the teevee room on my computer. The sunlight streaming in deceptively promises more warmth than it delivers at this time of year.

In the Northern Capitol it is somewhat below freezing right now and everybody is asleep.
By comparison we're practically tropical. Sybaritic.
And we have green grassy fields!

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