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Random Childhood Memory: Two on Food

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Cafeteria Food

I get the impression that it's generally accepted that cafeteria food tastes bad. It's constantly alluded to in writing or dialogue. The only time I've heard anything positive about it is on Jim O'Connor's Cafeteria Food feature in his The Secret Life of... series where it's described as "home-style cooking".

I have never understood the negativity around cafeteria food. I've always quite liked cafeteria food. I wasn't given an allowance growing up, so I rarely had any... it's probably a good thing I didn't, come to think of it.

But I think I now know why I feel differently than everyone else about caf grub.

See, I ate mostly Chinese food growing up. It was either my Mom's cooking or dim sum and dinner at Chinese restaurants. My parents don't mind Western cuisine, but we wouldn't have it very often.

So, caf food was enough of a novelty to me that I thought it actually tasted pretty good.

隔壁飯香 ( fàn xiāng), "food, next door, tastes better". =)

Dim Sum

In English "dim sum" refers to the lunch/brunch experience at a Chinese restaurant. But in Chinese, the same term refers to the food itself... or rather, in Cantonese, 點心 (dim sum) is small packets of food. In Mandarin, it exclusively means "dessert".

When we talk about going to lunch/brunch, we say "去飲茶" which in Cantonese is "hœi yum cha", which literally translates as "to go drink tea".

userinfoHusband Guy's family says "yam cha" in a mispronounced Cantonese. XD My Mother-In-Law's family is KeJia (Hakka). But her father was once in the Japanese military during the occupation and was deployed to Guangzhou (the irony), so he brought the Cantonese term home.

There is no equivalent term in Mandarin for it in Taiwan though, because they don't have a morning tea brunch thing. The closest thing would be just the term for "lunch". =)


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 6th, 2007 12:53 am (UTC)
In English "dim sum" refers to the lunch/brunch experience at a Chinese restaurant. But in Chinese, the same term refers to the food itself

Really? I mean, I speak no Chinese at all, but I'd always thought "dim sum" was the food (of various kinds in little dishes). I'm not sure where I got the idea from.
Aug. 6th, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
You are correct I just always hear "let's go _to_ dim sum" or "at dim sum" that which makes me think people are talking about the whole lunch trip.

I think people have started using "let's go _to_ dim sum" instead of "let's go _for_ dim sum".

But I'm picky like that. I'm also the kind of person who hates it when people pluralize uncountable nouns. =)
Aug. 6th, 2007 03:57 am (UTC)
As I recall, there were very few things at my school cafeteria that were actually BAD tasting.. and even then they were serviceable with some creativity. Some things were better the second day, but that might just have been because yesterday's leftovers were kinda free-for-all, so to speak.
Aug. 6th, 2007 04:17 am (UTC)
I think part of it, too, is that kids exaggerate things =)
Aug. 6th, 2007 05:20 am (UTC)
Out of curiosity, which dialects are you fluent in? Seems you have quite a lot of influences, family, friends, and of course, being in Vancouver.
Aug. 6th, 2007 05:32 am (UTC)
I can speak Mandarin and Cantonese, though I'd hesitate to say I'm fluent.

I can understand about 25-30% of Hakka conversation, depending on what's being said and what type of Hakka it is. I understand some, but much less of Taiwanese and Shanghainese. I can't say very much in any of these other dialects though =}

Incidentally, I have co-workers from Sze Chuan province and because we have no walls, I can actually make out a few things in their personal conversations. But I try not to eavesdrop =P
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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