FOOD for thought: a favourite meal can inspire memories as well as pleasure.
The other week I dined with an old pal in Manchester, at a Chinese buffet place called Tai Wu by Oxford Road station.
Szechuan seafood, steamed dumplings and Singapore noodles took me back to times we’d spent together in Hong Kong 30 years before.
As a newcomer I had practised my chopsticks technique at home by picking up monkey nuts.
The trickiest items to handle when out were wobbly beancurd or fried egg (without breaking the yolk).
Another testing treat was slippery mushroom in dark bean sauce, as I discovered at a banquet with the Governor.
Reaching with chopsticks to a communal bowl, I dropped a big dollop on the immaculate white tablecloth at Government House.
“Best to leave!” advised a tycoon’s wife as I made it worse by trying to pick up what I’d let slip.
More embarrassing still was the first time I dined alone in a neighbourhood restaurant at Wanchai.
It was Pekingese cuisine and, unbeknown to me, only served banqueting dishes for groups of a dozen.
I had thought the table large.
My simple order of soup, roast chicken and fried prawns duly arrived and everyone stared as I tackled a vat of sweetcorn soup, several chopped chickens and a mountain of king prawns on a silver platter.
It was cheap, as a meal for 12, but I made only a dent in the feast - then left shamefaced to lie groaning on my bed the rest of the evening.
Still, you learn – and the memories rushed back in Manchester where we ate with spoon and fork.
“Of course,” my mate recalled, “the tastiest of all was that food we ate by hand on outlying islands - roasted pigeon breasts in lemon juice, diced quail and cashew nuts in lettuce hearts or, best of all, chopped crab and lobster in blackbean sauce.”
Ah, what a rich and moveable feast life offers us!
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