Animated conversation stirs up energy in any gathering. The party in my home last Sunday was full of zest, not to mention two 4-year-old girls and one 2-year-old boy romping up and down the stairs and dodging between chairs. It was a lovely chaos, the kind that makes you feel you’re in a fiesta or a rigorous birthday celebration without a singular celebrant. We were all celebrants, loudly exchanging notes on how we cooked our potluck dish, and urging everyone to pick a portion of our delicacy on to their plate. The buffet spread was enormous and impressive, and before anyone could touch any of the items on the food line, cameras busily clicked. I still am waiting for copies to be sent to me.
Four languages were represented in this gathering: Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog and English. I didn’t mind at all that Chinese was predominant in conversations. After all, majority were Chinese. And being usually active in the exchange and interaction, this Lola often steered the conversation to English which to a few, was a bit of a struggle. For those few, cell phones clicked open for English words to complete the sentences. Funny, the English speakers were saintly patient. We wanted to hear those full sentences. And ah — such victory when they were completed. Somehow, we all understood one another – but importantly, it was enough that everyone was clearly having a great time. Even the children were having a blast in their spontaneous squabbles.
I did mind about one thing – there were a couple of spicy hot dishes that were sublimely delicious but too brazen for my palate. I did venture to snatch a slice of red hot tofu and shoved it into my mouth. Whew! Didn’t dare do it again. It felt like flames were fuming out of my ears.
Guests were mostly young scientists taking advance studies at Stanford University. Science was not a favorite topic of conversation, however. Food was. So was travel, since two of the couples and their children just came back from a quick tour of the US. Yellowstone and Alaska seemed to be the favorites of their children. The main attractions were the animals. And surprisingly, the subject of sports was in the lively discussion. It turned out two of the young men were football and basketball players and enthusiasts. We talked about the Big Game – Stanford versus Cal football team. Not many in the group, however, knew football. In Asia, basketball is more popular.
The chats rang rich with lighthearted banter and stories. Fun and laughter matched the food in abundance. We teased couples about how each called the other. Very interesting in choices of names of endearment. While Papa and Mama or Daddy and Mommy were common, others derived clever ways of calling each other, almost a revelation of how one treated the other. One pair called each other “Leader”. We teased — equal footing, huh? But who was more leader than the other. No response to that question. Another husband and wife team whom we shall call Joe and Joan chose “Small Joe” and “Little Joan”. They aren’t exactly short or small in stature, but somehow, those nicknames evoke images of children at play. Come to think of it, they exuded a playful, lighthearted kind of disposition. How wonderful! But, on second thought, we all were relishing the fun party, like children at play.
My Chinese friend’s husband, one of the “Leaders”, demonstrated his skill at cooking in my kitchen. He was fast and efficient and produced the best beef and celery concoction I had ever eaten. The sauce was savory, with a mildly pungent fragrance seeped from the celery perhaps. His wife set aside a portion of the dish with rice in my lunch box that I brought to work. That was a real treat. That “Leader” also was a diligent tea maker. Not knowing English, he mastered the question, “More tea?” – an invitation often interjected in the last hour of the party. For some reason, after an eating binge, tea is panacea for full or bloated stomachs. I remember I drank three cups of superb Chinese tea: two of the red tea, and one of the orange. When I could hardly sleep after dinner that night, I realized I had too much caffeine, but I didn’t mind that at all.
Two families from that group flew back home yesterday. I look forward to their next visit, when this same group will hold a lively and scrumptious potluck in my home, clinched by a voice calling out a cajoling, “More tea?”. While good food and entertaining social chats make a successful party, warm friendships turn the key.