“Slippery” Noodles

I love China.

Joan, my wife, was born in Shanghai which is now the largest city by population in the world. Her mother and father had met and married in China during WWII. John was an officer in the Army Air Corps and Florence was a secretary for the State Department. After the war ended, they remained in China and John imported goods from America. Of course, they left when Chairman Mao and the gang came to town.

In the early 1990s, Joan and I traveled to Shanghai. We hired a very experienced guide who spoke English as if she had been born here. She was open about the fact that she had polished her English while in the Chinese Army monitoring American military traffic.

We had a wonderful time, and may have found Joan’s home in the old French Quarter. We parked the car near where the guide thought the home might have been and got out and spread a large old map on the hood of the car.

We soon drew a crowd of friendly Chinese. There were several old people who gave various opinions about whether we had found the home. If we did find the home, it had changed dramatically. It was now a multi-family dwelling that stretched to the street. The front gardens of Joan’s time were gone.

This silk piece hangs in our living room in Nebraska.  It came from Joan's home in the French Quarters of Shanghai around 1947.

This silk piece hangs in our living room in Lincoln, Nebraska. It came from Joan’s home in the French Quarter of Shanghai circa 1946-1949.

Daughter Lisa and her family live in China (Shekou) across the bay from Hong Kong. Lisa and Karel are teachers. Petra, who was born in a Chinese hospital in Guangzhou (formerly Canton), has “her” ayi (阿姨 – āyí) (“aunt” in Chinese) who she loves dearly. This very nice woman (we have “met” her on Skype numerous times), who speaks no English, looks after the kids when Karel and Lisa are gone. As a result, and even though she is not yet five, Petra is picking up Mandarin and a lot of Chinese culture to boot. (Ayi’s grandaughter and Petra are good friends.)

Recently the family went out for dinner at a tiny street cafe near their home. Petra ordered the meal in Chinese for each of the family members. Petra ordered the “slippery”* noodles that she so loves for herself and consumed the meal using chop sticks with no problem. “Slurping” is mandatory.


I hope Lisa, Karel and the grandchildren stay in China. There is so much there to learn and the people are wonderful. The “slippery” noodles are good too.


*“The Chinese like their noodles long and slippery, the better to slurp down noisily.”  The Cook’s Thesarus: Asian (last accessed July 20, 2014).

5 responses

  1. Judge:
    Lovely story. I have never been to China but it strikes me as a fascinating society that is still inscrutable to most Westerners. I could be (very) wrong about this. At least I like noodles so there would be no issue as to my enjoying the cuisine.

  2. Robert,

    Put China on your bucket list. It is now very easy get around and there is more to see than one person would have time to see in a lifetime. I have my favorites, but whatever you elected to see would leave you changed. And the best part–the absolute best part–is the people.

    Example: After watching an old man do his exercises in Xian one morning in the garden of our hotel, he offered to give us a short guided tour of the zoo in that city. I think his fee was $5.00 US. The old man was a retired electrical engineer who had worked on a power plant. His English was passable. He supplemented his pension by doing these short, little tours for the English speakers he encountered. The zoo was interesting, but the old man ever so much more. This encounter was completely accidental and wonderful.

    All the best.


  3. Judge,
    I recently spent a year in China as a Fulbright Scholar – I taught American law to Chinese students and my family and I both had the experience of a lifetime. I absolutely agree that it is bucket list material. Most Americans have no inkling of the richness of the culture and complexity of the Chinese society but view it as some monolithic economic monster. Living and working in China, and, in particular, riding the Guangzhou buses every day for a year gave us just a glimpse of this amazing, dynamic place. It’s a view that more Americans need to see!
    Best wishes from one of those darn law professors,
    Mary Sue

  4. Mary Sue,

    I like law professors, particularly ones who teach in China.

    I am glad you agree with me on China. It is no more a monolith economic monster than the US, the UK, etc. And the people and their diverse cultures are, as you point out, fascinating.

    All the best.


    PS Congratulations on your Fulbright. That is a singular achievment.

%d bloggers like this: