Our friend (and colleague of Mr. T), "O.Z." arrived in town from his home in Shanghai last weekend. He and Mr. T have spent most of his time in the U.S. on a domestic business trip elsewhere, but they got finished two days early and flew home last night. Since they'd worked so hard, we all played hooky from work (and TK from preschool) and went to the beach.
O.Z. hosted us in China last April, and we were treated, quite frankly, like rock stars. So whenever O.Z. comes here, we try to show him a good time too. One thing that has surprised me is how few cultural disconnects there are in our friendship. We get each other's jokes; we discuss history, world affairs, and business. (Try having a lengthy discussion with a 33-year-old Chinese guy about the McCarthy era sometime. Very interesting.)
The running joke this week has been the difference in the ways our respective cultures approach food, as evidenced by this discussion at a Portland seafood restaurant:
O.Z. (holding up a gigantic Alaskan crab leg): This is enormous crab. This is typical?
Mr. T: Yeah, I suppose. That's Alaskan king crab.
O.Z.: Where is crab body? You eat the legs only?
Mr. T, grimacing: Eww. The body? That goes in the trash.
O.Z.: But that is best part! In China, that is delicacy, and the legs are considered so-so. You know this. (Addressing me now.) When we take Mr. T to Spicy Crab Restaurant in Shanghai, they have very small crabs. All Chinese people eating the bodies, but Mr. T pick away at those tiny crab legs!
You do same thing with chicken. You throw away chicken feet, but Chinese dry them and sell them as snack at gas station!
[Insert much grimacing and noises of revulsion from me and Mr. T as O.Z. laughs hysterically.]
Me: Come over Friday night. I'll make crab cakes if we can find crab at the coast.
Mr. T: We'll even let you have the body, O.Z.
O.Z.: Thank you! With crab, it's like you Americans find a box with pearl in it, and you throw away pearl and eat box instead.