FAIRY TALE FEASTS: Food for Thought

Tue, Nov 18th, 2014 11:24:25 am

          Cookbooks are one place where food and words come together. But it's not the only place where that happens.
          Words from our kitchens pop up in our conversations all the time to give a richer sense of daily life. For examples, "that's a half-baked idea; go think some more," "don't give me more work; my plate is full," "they're dishing out criticism," or "that's a different kettle of fish.
         The same thing happens in the Chinese language which, for me, is Cantonese, the southern dialect. I grew up in a household where my aunt spoke Cantonese because her family hailed from Guangzhou, the provincial capital, while my uncle spoke Toisanese, a dialect from the farming region just west of Hong Kong.  Here are a few examples.
          To "cook congee without rice煲冇米粥" [spoken as: bo mo mai juk" means you're wasting time planning something with no chance of success.
          "Good firewood burn-ruins a stove 好柴燒爛炉" [spoken as: ho chaai siu laan lo] is what you say with a sigh when a good deed goes unappreciated.  This one puzzled me until someone explained that in China, clay stoves (often for portability) were used. See illustrations below.
          "Local ginger isn't hot 本地薑唔辣" [spoken as: boon dei geung m laat] pokes fun at those people who always praise imported goods.
          A favorite of mine is "eat cucumber at midnight 半夜食黃瓜" [spoken as: boon ye sik wong gwa]. This is when you're in the dark and cannot make neither head nor tail of a matter.

A roadside seller of clay stoves.
This candle-maker is using a clay stove.
Dumpling vendor uses clay stove beneath top counter
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