Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Christmas morning. First smoke of the day. Crows overhead, cheerful sounding. A few minutes later a flock of parrots. Elderly Cantonese ladies at the bus stop, heading to C'town, probably for dim sum, or simply a pastry and coffee. Possibly a nice bowl of congee. Whenever I'm at the place on Stockton (金華快餐 'gam waa faai chaan') for a bowl of congee, I notice that few of the Toishan-speaking retirees have theirs with an oil stick (油條 'yau tiu'), it's mostly Northerners or Taiwanese who do that.
I've always prefered it with an oil stick.
A strip of fresh fried dough.
It's yummy!

Maybe their doctors told them not to. Or they think it's too "heating". But honestly, there ain't a hell of a lot of substance to congee, as the proportion of rice to water is so little. A goodly bowl of hot jook will equal approximately three tablespoons of dry rice at most, the additions to make it fun, whether preserved egg and lean pork, or salt plank fish and peanuts, or whatever, are barely half a cup in volume. We're not talking a huge meal here.
More like a snack that hits the spot.

[Many Cantonese will avoid or only have modest amounts of foods wich are heating. I've never actually understood what that means, but "yeet hey" (熱氣 'yit hei') is something to be wary of. Everything that tastes good seems to be "yeet hey". It's probably their version of feeling puritanical guilt about enjoying good stuff.]

Congee, or jook (粥 'juk') is a common breakfast food. And may be had as a comforting indulgence throughout the day, or late at night when you've been out drinking. Which I would recommend as far better for your stomach than that doughnut or slice of greasy pizza. It should be mentioned that the concept of an elderly Cantonese person out carousing till the wee hours is rather amusing, and almost unheard of. In any case I have seldom seen it. Drunkenness and gravitas, whether actual or a desperate pretense), hardly ever go together. Ah Sook may get a little tiddly, but you'll never see him with a lampshade over his head.

Dim sum is something you do with a group of your friends or relatives early in the day. Congee is more of a single person thing. Not all Cantonese people are gregarious in the morning, and some of the older folks don't even pretend anymore. This middle-aged Dutch American sympathizes with them. I like having people around me at most times, but preferably at their own tables, quietly enjoying their "privacy". Attend to the food, show it the respect it deserves. Please don't talk over it and ignore it.

Unless you're eating at KFC or the Golden Arches.
Then it deserves all the ignoring it can get.
Is that stuff even food?


One of my friends on the other side of the country has a pancake breakfast with his buddies every week. I could never do that. Perhaps jook with one other person, each of us with our own bowl, oil stick, beverage, and news paper. Except that the local newspaper isn't worth reading anymore.

Afterwards, perhaps, a quiet smoke.
Have some of my tobacco.
Or a cigar.

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