(Extra)ordinary feasts

Today is just one of those misty, damp days in New York that reminds me of some parts of China -- Sichuan in particular, famous for its "four rivers" and the resultant humidity of the landscape. There, people eat loads of spicy foods, apparently for their heat-producing effect (to ward off the dankness of the air). Sichuan hotpot has become famous in recent years, but boiling food in a small coal-power stove is common in many parts of China.

I recently came across these photos of my trip to Yunnan in December, and I still have something to say about that trip. After a two-hour horseback ride, we finished the morning with a bowl of fresh rice and a Yunnan hotpot of boiled cabbage, pork fat, potatoes, and squash. I remember this meal clearly, as it was so simple and so good -- the warm broth of the soup after the cold wind of the morning, the vegetables freshly picked from the fields around us by the women below.

Sometimes, when I have a meal that good and that perfect for the occasion, I want to hold onto it. I want every meal to be that way, and I have trouble relinquishing it for the everyday. Travel is like that too: every image seems sprightly and enchanting, not hum-drum and tedious like life back home. But just as I can't keep up the peripatetic lifestyle forever, not every meal can be extraordinary, either. There will be mornings, like today, when fresh apple muffins and caffe latte make up a quaint breakfast. But there will also be mornings of stale cereal and mushy bananas -- and they're just as much a part of life as anything else, just as much a part of life as taking the crowded 4 line of the subway, or cleaning the toilet, or suffering through the anxious minutes before I fall asleep.

When I yearn for the extraordinary, whether in food or in life, I remind myself that these minutes, too -- the ones that I am too happy to let pass by unawares -- are the stuff of my existence. This drab New York morning, this tired lumbar spine, this boredom of keyboards and numbers -- these things, too, are it.


Kim said...

Great post. I think in recovery, I've expected life to suddenly become exciting and new and amazing. In all honesty, life can be a little mundane. There was no parade when I gained weight. There were no blaring trumpets. It's just life. Still, I think there is something beautiful in those little "nothing" moments. I'm trying to appreciate them more...

Emily Jolie said...

I always so enjoy reading your words, dear Ai Lu. So much resonates with me, and you write so beautifully.

I'm glad I stopped by for a visit! I know your beautiful energy will accompany me through the rest of my day.

many warm thoughts to you,