Wednesday, December 30, 2020


Years ago, a commenter on Dovbear's blog asked me if I was sure I was Jewish. And, what with being so goyish you could drive a truck through me, I honestly answered that I wasn't at all sure about that. Then on my own blog (which is this one here) I followed that up by writting one of my best pieces ever. About charsiu noodle soup.
Pursuant which, please know that there is a major difference in texture between wheat noodles (麺 'min') and rice flour noodles ( 河粉 'ho fan'), and further differences in thickness, density, and toothsomeness depending on particular varieties. Egg noodles are divergent too, and Italian types can be varied as well. So the simple description "charsiu noodle soup" leaves several questions unanswered.

Personally, I like broad rice stick noodles, as well as bakmi noodles. And in both cases I favour a more Vietnamese or Thai approach, including fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and thinly sliced green chili. Plus a touch of fish sauce and a squeeze of lime.
Plus ginger; it's good for the stomach.

I think that essay/story was the first time I mentioned 'moth-like eyebrows' (brows that are soft, thickish, and arched), which was an image I got from a Tang dynasty poet describing a young lady from Yue (far southern China, from the Min River in Fukien all the way to Hue in Vietnam), which is a metafor for unspoiled honest Southerners in contrast to effete and decadent urbanites in the northern capital city.

Basically, the Lingnan geographic area, which literarily was still considered newly Sinicised, somewhat primitive, and exotic. A suitable place for honest farmers and dissident scholar officials, as well as a source of new products, weird foods, and fascinating creatures.
Plus pearls and kingfisher feathers.
Also lychee, longan.

[Lingnan (南岭 "south of the ridges or passes") is broadly speaking everything south of the Wuling Mountains (五岭 "five ridges") to the watershed of the Red River( 紅河 'hung ho'). Narrowly, the cultural area of the Pearl River (珠江 'jyu gong'). Canton.]

Cantonese women like food, and are not tongue-tied.
Those are admirable characteristics.


I am not Jewish. You may have thought that I was a pink-faced yeshiva bucher, clutching my battered copy of Bava Batra along with Rav Dinkelstreib's scathing lomdishe commentary.
But you were wrong.

I'm actually a Catholic high school girl with thick raven tresses. My stiffly starched long sleeved cotton blouse is just a little too small in a particular area, and my plaid skirt flashes a sight of dimpled knees when I walk. My long white socks hug my calves - the effect is both very modest, very girlish, and incredibly revealing. Not Jewish at all.
I smell alluringly of Alfred Sung perfume, despite that being far too mature a scent for a person of my youthfulness.

You hide behind that bus shelter as you watch me lifting juicy morsels from my bowl of roast-pork noodle soup to my red red lips with my chopsticks at the front table of a Chinatown eatery. You spy upon me, as you have so often in these past few weeks. You observe my every move. It is an aesthetic obsession, but there may be more to it than that.
Guileless, perhaps. But is it you or me that is so?

Do you notice the elegance of my delicate hands? The deft way my fine-boned fingers enfold the pale ivory plastic shafts? And especially, do you note the perfect line of my nose, the exquisite undulation of my eyelids, when I close my eyes to inhale deeply of the porky brothy aroma wafting up from the bowl?

I know you do. I can feel it.

Vicariously, you too absorb this treif. Your mouth makes its own masticatory motions, an unwilled and unconscious echo of what I do with such joy.
It is good. It is very good. You just know it.

You cannot fail to observe, even from that distance, how my eyebrows, which curve like the antennae of a moth, are mirrored in the surface of the soup. How black they are, how velvety against the pale skin. That soft soft skin, those gentle features.

You do not know that I see your shadow out of the corner of my eyes, that I sense you spying on me.
I am conscious of your sweaty discomfort - I can see your forehead shining, and you are wearing too many garments.
I lift some noodles to my mouth and slurp, swallowing them entire. A fragment of cilantro clings to a corner of my mouth. As I lift the bowl up to sup the last savoury drops, I know that your knees have turned to jelly. You slide down against the bus shelter exhausted.

Good boy.

I pay for my soup. As I leave the restaurant it starts to rain. I stride past you, crumpled up behind the bus shelter, your frog-like eyes glassily staring up at me. You hope that I will not notice you, and yet.... you wish I would.
When I have passed, and you can no longer see my face, I smile.

It was good soup. I'll go there again tomorrow.

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