韭菜盒子

By Xinyu Guan, PC ’18

Food is an essential part of childhood memories, so it’s no wonder that food remains such an important family ritual in China. In this article, Xinyu reminisces about her grandma’s cuisine, particularly her cooking chive boxes.

ORIGINAL

对我来说,外婆做的韭菜盒子是很难被超越的 — — 剁得碎碎的韭菜拌着打花的鸡蛋、略炒熟的肉丝和粉条,再混上老抽和糖做成馅儿,之后包在大一号的饺子皮里煎到金黄。想想其实做韭菜盒子并不是一件特别复杂的事,但我们一家三口就偏偏没有人想到去学。每隔一段时间,我和妈妈总要打电话给外婆叨念我们有多馋她的韭菜盒子。一般没过几天,我们就登上了从上海回西安的飞机。

那么多次往往返返,可是每一次家人都无比兴奋地期待着我们的归来。姨妈和表哥守候在机场,外公霸占着家里楼下停车场的位置,外婆则是包好一个又一个韭菜盒子、盛好一碗又一碗精心熬制的红豆粥。不争气的国内航班常常延误,可是即使到深夜,家人也依然翘首企盼。终于进了家门,而我和妈妈毫无寒暄之意,每次都立刻狼吞虎咽起来。每当我们把刚出炉的韭菜盒子蘸着浓浓的镇江香醋放进嘴里时,那个瞬间的美味敌过天下所有的美食。在这里,我们可以放肆地大吃,吃五个都是小菜一碟。

十几年来,这个屡屡重复的“吃货”场景成为了我和妈妈的一种习惯。当妈妈在工作中遇到挫折或当我在申请大学的过程失去信心的时候,我们都会阿Q般地告诉自己:大不了回家啊!怎么样都有韭菜盒子吃!就算不能放下手中的事情,我们也总会顺手打个电话,问问外公外婆晚饭吃了什么。

今天,我的外公外婆健康而充实 地生活着,然而我却不再能经常体验那被韭菜盒子和家人环绕的十五分钟。至少在未来的三年,十五个小时飞行的间隔、十二个小时的时差、外公外婆对互联网通讯的陌生以及大学生活的繁忙,都使韭菜盒子的味道渐渐疏远了。尽管每一次在中餐厅我都会迫不及待地点韭菜盒子,尽管我要求外婆将独门秘方完整地写下来以便假期时我自己掌勺,但我却怎么也无法品尝或复制那熟悉的味道。深夜时分,每当我在图书馆绞尽脑汁准备考试,或在床上辗转反侧担忧令我苦恼的科学课时,我就会突然特别想回家,回到满载美味的餐桌前,在外公外婆众星捧月般的期待中咬一大口韭菜盒子。每想到这里,我都会轻叹一口气,坦然接受远离家乡的代价。

TRANSLATION

My grandma makes the best chive box. I guess you could say that chive box bears a certain resemblance to hot pockets. Chopped chives, eggs, pork and vermicelli, seasoned with soy sauce and sugar, wrapped in dumpling dough and fried until they turn golden-brown. Nothing too complicated. And yet no one in my family seems to know how to make them. Every once in a while, my mum and I would call my grandma and tell her how much we miss her chives boxes. Two days later, we would be on a plane back to Xi’an, the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilization and my grandparent’s home for more than thirty years.

No matter how late we arrive and how many times we tell my cousin and aunt not to come, they would always be at the airport, ready to comment on the slightest changes in our physical appearances and report that everyone has been “too excited to sleep”. My grandpa would be waiting downstairs of their apartment, guarding the one empty parking space, while my grandma prepares plates and plates of readily made, pan-fried chives boxes with two small bowls of red bean porridge on the side. The unwritten rule is that as soon as we enter, we have to sit down and start gobbling. No small talk. No pleasantries. Just pick up a chives box, dip it into vinegar and enjoy the intense flavor and warmth that come with this traditional dim sum. We are expected to eat as many as we can: be it six o’clock in the morning or eleven o’clock at night, five chives boxes is the absolute minimum.

For ten years, this quiet, fifteen-minute ritual with food and family has been what my mum and I looked forward to and returned to in times of loneliness and frustration. Whenever we were struggling in business negotiations, endless daily chores or the college application process, we would think about the delicious chives boxes on my grandparents’ dinner table and how incredibly lucky we were to be loved and cherished by our family. Even if we couldn’t board a plane right away, we would call them, ask them what they ate for dinner, and promise a visit as soon as possible.

Today, my grandparents are both still healthy, but I can no longer continue our ritual. We are and we will be, for at least another three years, a fifteen-hour flight apart. The twelve-hour time difference, their reluctance to learn how to use Skype and the constant distractions in my chaotic college life make it hard for us to remain as close as we were before. I order chives boxes at every Chinese restaurant that offers them; I asked my grandma for a complete recipe and tried making them myself during fall break. Yet nothing comes close to the flavor that I was used to. There are moments late at night — usually when I am studying for an upcoming midterm at Bass Library or lying awake in my bed worrying about my science credit — when I suddenly have this irrepressible and irresistible urge to go home, to have my grandparents sit right beside me as I stuff a whole chives box in my mouth. Then I would quietly go to sleep knowing that this is the price of leaving home.

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