Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Chinese cuisine & Western arrogance

Have they run out of provinces yet? 
If they haven’t, we’ve reason to fret.
Long ago, there was just Cantonese. 
(Long ago, we were easy to please.) 
But then food from Szechuan came our way, 
Making Cantonese strictly passé. 
Szechuanese was the song that we sung,  
Though the ma po could burn through your tongue. 
Then when Shanghainese got in the loop 
We slurped dumplings whose insides were soup.  
Then Hunan, the birth province of Mao, 
Came along with its own style of chow. 
So we thought we were finished, and then 
A new province arrived: Fukien.  
Then respect was a fraction of meagre 
For those eaters who’d not eaten Uighur.  
And then Xi’an from Shaanxi gained fame, 
Plus some others—too many to name.

Now, as each brand-new province appears, 
It brings tension, increasing our fears: 
Could a place we extolled as a find 
Be revealed as one province behind? 
So we sometimes do miss, I confess,  
Simple days of chow mein but no stress, 
When we never were faced with the threat 
Of more provinces we hadn’t met.  
Is there one tucked away near Tibet?
Have they run out of provinces yet?


"Have they run out of provinces yet?", by Calvin Trillin

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