Chinese Dinner Party Night!

Yesterday was Stress Day. 

What am I talking about?

I did my usual exercise routine, hung out with the kids…what’s so bad abt that?

It was Dinner Party Night!

Chinese Style.

This is the time of Year I feel most useless. 

We had old friends coming over for dinner, along with one fellow in particular who had yet to visit our house.   Everyone was Chinese. 

My wife is rather conservative, I feel, for her “old age”..(A smokin’ 44), and over the course of the past 22 years I’ve pretty much accepted my wife for what she is.(you’d think!)

But I still shudder at the silliness of Chinese Dinner Party Night.  On the stove for the evening we have the following ready to go:

10 dishes
1 fish
1 fruit salad
1 cake
1 soup.
A bottle of some Chinese Yellow Wine

We have 3 adults coming over+2 teenagers.  In fairness, it turns out one of the original party is too ill to show.

Our Chinese friends arrive.  They bring….

One Soup
4 dishes

Maybe I should explain why this is so stressful for me?  After all, I’m not the one doing any of the cooking.   I’ve long since stopped wondering how much all this cost.  Rather,  I don’t know abt the other husbands out there,( or Western wives), but I get stressed when I see my wife working hard to please someone else. 

Just how does my wife get ready for these events, you may ask?

It starts with a Dinner Party Eve run to Sam’s Club(Costco is too far away, and she’s managed to borrow a Chinese Neigbors Card.  Chinese do so “all look the same” don’t they?)  She spends two hours there just getting the basics.  She also buys a $70 “ dish warmer”.  Pretty cool gadget if you ask me.

But the real work starts early the next day, the day of the Event.  I know the night before the Event is probably the last private time we’ll have together for awhile, so I try and keep things low key.
Sure enough, the morning of the Event, she’s up and out of the door by 9am.  Why so early?  Chinese mkts, by the way, don’t follow Western Rules.  Their open here on ALL Holidays.  (It’s easier for me to drive clear cross town for a Fried Rice Bento than it is to go a half mile for a local haircut. )

She’s gone the good part of 3 hours, closer to 4.  How somebody can spend that much time just buying food is beyond me.   I’ve long stopped complaining, and I’ve long stopped asking nosey questions.  I just roll with the punches.  Buying the food though, you see is just part of the experience. 

Now comes the cooking.

I am utterly useless at this point.  I cannot cook Chinese food to my wives taste.  Nor anyone’s.   My wife spends the next 4 hours in the kitchen, developing a sweat even as the weather is 40 degrees outside.

(excuse me as I just took a 5 minute break while my wife decides its time to check for leaves in the pool.  How can she do such a thing without asking me first?? Did I mention it’s 36 outside(2 C) and the pool is covered?  Sure enough it’s still time to feed the pool chlorine tablets!)

Don’t get me wrong;  I’m not ashamed, or embarrassed.   I’ve given up trying to understand why my wife, (or her parents), freak out when guests are due to arrive.    When my inlaws stay with us I used to casually mention that we should have one of my daughter’s friends over for dinner.  The F in law promptly vetoes the suggestion.  He says it would be too much work! 

“For a 9 year old”?,  I ask

“Yes!”, he thunders back.

Yeah…..I’m sure my daughters Indian friends would all hold my Chinese inlaws to a very high std when cooking Shanghai dishes.

It’s so much easier in the West, when we have a laowai dinner party.  My wife still feels obligated to make a few Chinese dishes.   Than gets on me when I haven’t started “planning” for an event that is 24 hrs away from Eat Time. 

July 4th is a great time in our family, because Daddio Loves Fireworks….!  And we always have a family or two over, because our house is situated in a cul-de-sac…the best place for fireworks!  Yet my prep time consists of nothing more than warming up the grill.  Cook time is 30 minutes.  Maybe an hour at the market(travel time incl).  It infuriates my wife I don’t spend more time preparing, and then more than once she will simply say “the laowai is too simple”. 

I relish the simplicity of the Western Lifestyle, vis a vis the Face oriented Stress creating Chinese way of doing things. 

While my wife continues her assault on Dinner Prep, I find myself going down to the basement to write my blog, play chess with the kids, or having them focused on some school activity.   We’ve all learned our house is worse off when Mom is stressed herself.  She claims she isn’t…but how can she not be?  My biggest challenge is not staying away, but knowing when to come back upstairs to help out....

Set the table
Get the plates ready
Need Ice for the kids soft drinks....(I can handle that)

Her focus is laser.  Her attention to detail admirable.   She knows how I feel about the entire exercise.  We’ve travelled that bridge, and long since let go.   You see, my wife is way overboard, and 80% of her effort is Face oriented, pure and simple.  Still, I get it.  My burgers on the grill need to taste just right.  And I always work from a clean grill.  A man in America cannot be seen grilling ANYTHING from a dirty grill. 

Finally our Chinese friends show up…they marvel at the effort, and quite frankly, I believe them when they say my wife has gone overboard. 

应该的, she replies, with that silly laugh of hers.

So we all sit down…and I bring out a couple of bottles of Cabernet, and everyone is in bliss.  Than the conversation after a few hours turns to raising rabbits, and I know it’s time to go…you see it’s my job to wash up.   It’ll take 2 hours, but I know I’d rather be doing this, than singing KTV in the basement.   One of the Men walks in and no doubt after being egged on by his wife meekly asks

“Can I help”?, (praying to God I’ll say no), and I play along…

“NO, don’t worry, I’m almost done”…..

But I know what they are thinking….my wives efforts are really counterproductive. 

How so?

Again, Face rears its ugly head.   

Do you think our Chinese Friends will be inviting us over anytime soon?  Having seen how high my wife sets the bar….the choice for them is simple to make:
We can make 11 dishes, rather than 10….soup, fruit salad, triple chocolate brownies, case of soft drinks for the kids, etc, or…..

We can just not invite them to come over!

Which choice is the easiest choice to make??

Now that’s how you end an arms race…..

And that’s fine by me….because I need my red wine, but’s it better to drink at my house, rather than drinking and driving.  And her friends live too damn far away anyway.


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