“Chinese Cooking as a People Unifier” by Danielle Sarns

I had the opportunity to attend the Meishi Chinese Gourmet cooking class last November. When entering the demo kitchen at Southquad, two Chinese cooks and their student assistants greeted us with warm welcomes with their hairnets and aprons in tow. I realized then that it was going to be a fun and messy night. The class was very hands-on as we kneaded dough, mixed ingredients, and molded designs. Besides learning how to create authentic Chinese dishes, we got to know the cooks, Angela Yang and Shih-Wen Wu, as well as the other attendees. The two cooks shared stories about their passion for cooking and how they learned to cook. Shih-Wen learned how to cook from her mother. When she immigrated to the U.S, she realized her passion for cooking and rediscovered her mother’s lost Chinese recipes. She also enjoys teaching and holds a Master of Education in Counseling. Angela, on the other hand, has a background in science biology and molecular medicine. This is what influences her passion for cooking. She was happy to share nutritional information as well as the chemical reactions that occurred during cooking. It was fascinating to hear how two people found a common love for the art of cooking in two distinctly different ways. Their passion for cooking reminded me very much of my grandmother. My grandmother loves cooking Chinese food and gains a genuine sense of satisfaction and pride when others say her food tastes good. Her passion stems from being able to make others happy. She is from southern China and cooks many healthy dishes. Her garlic chives, spareribs, and shrimp with lobster sauce are among the best I’ve ever tasted. The dishes created at the event were just as delicious and healthy. We created traditional dishes such as red bean moon cakes and some that I have never tried before, such as steamed meatballs covered with egg and rice. Although they were referred to as meatballs, the taste was completely different than one would think. Mixed with scallions and soy sauce, they had a distinctly Chinese taste to them. All the dishes were flavorful and enjoyable. The experience of learning how to cook these dishes taught us more about the Chinese culture and brought us together in a fun comfortable environment. We had lots of fun getting our hands into the food by mixing ingredients and assembling mooncakes. Although some did not turn out perfectly, they tasted great and it was a great experience. People often say that food is a universal unifier, and I believe this is very fitting as food can be used as a way to unite culture.

Danielle Sarns
U-M Undergraduate Student, Communications and Asian Studies

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