Lisa McClure's China Diary


May 12, 1999

Lara has got to have grown at least an inch since we arrived in China, and she's definitely a lot heavier. Maybe 28 - 29 pounds, I would guess, and I'll be surprised if she isn't close to 37 inches tall now.

This morning, I was asked to give another 4 yuan to the school. They gave all of the children a Type - B encephalitis vaccinations yesterday, which costs 2 yuan (about 25 cents) and will be buying them all toothbrushes which will cost another 2 yuan. What a far cry from the States, where the parents would all have to sign consent forms and it would cost an arm and a leg to do anything!

I'm pretty sure that Lara did have chicken pox now. At the time, I just thought that a bug had bitten her up one side of her face one night while we were sleeping, but since the spots all healed up, she hasn't had any more bites, and I know that the flying bug is still in the room, because I can hear him buzzing. Thank goodness for the chicken pox vaccine! I hate to think how sick and miserable she might have been if she'd had a full blown case of chicken pox.

As it was, she had no fever, and not too many poxes, and none of them itched her at all, and now they are all healed up, and she doesn't have to worry about catching it as an adult. She never missed a single day of school, and she had the poxes on her face for several days before somebody at the guesthouse told me that the school said chicken pox was going around and they thought she had it. So, it was not a problem at all.

We are both eating well and regularly and getting plenty of exercise. When I first got here, I was appalled at the lack of hygiene. For example, we only wash the dishes in cold unboiled water with a small amount of mild dishwashing detergent. People often eat out of a common dish for meals, etc. But we're healthy as horses, and have no problems. We wash all the vegetables in cold, unboiled water, and often eat raw tomatoes and cucumbers, so I guess the water isn't all that bad here either. However, we don't drink the water without boiling it, and so far at least, I don't let either Lara or myself brush our teeth with it. We have never had a serious stomach problem, either of us, and we're definitely not being freakishly cautious.

All the Chinese people I know make dishes out of their memories. I've never seen anybody use a recipe. Tomatoes cost about 30 cents a pound, and they are ripe and fresh and grown locally in greenhouses, and taste fabulous. Ditto for the cucumbers, though they are denser than American cucumbers. In fact, all of the vegetables are superior to American produce, and a lot cheaper. I think we can get nearly all of the vegetables and fruits available in Arizona, plus a lot of other ones that I haven't seen back home. About the only things that are difficult to find are lemons and I haven't yet seen an avocado here. Other than that, the produce is easily available.

A staple recipe here is eggs and tomatoes. To cook this one, you heat some oil in a wok until it is good and hot. Beat up as many eggs as you want and season them with a little salt. Pour the eggs into the oil, and watch them fluff right up, Gently scramble them until they are cooked through, then remove them from the wok, and turn off the heat.

Cut up a couple of tomatoes (however many you want for the number of eggs you have) into eighths. In a small bowl, combine your seasonings - chopped up garlic, sugar, salt, soy sauce, rice wine, vinegar, maybe a little red pepper.

Put a little more oil into the wok and heat it. Pour in the tomatoes and seasonings, and add a little water. Cook this for a few minutes until the tomatoes are good and hot, then add back the scrambled eggs and stir it all together for another minute or so.

This is a great dish and very easy to make. Everybody has their own version, but I like this one the best.

One of my students has also made an incredible spicy cold gandouf and cucumber salad that I want to learn how to make. The only problem with this recipe is that you cannot buy gandouf in the States, as far as I know. It's a type of tofu that is fairly dry and looks like flexible sheets of paper. It hasn't any flavor of its own, but when it's seasoned up, the taste and texture of it is marvelous.

I don't cook with a lot of meat at home, mostly vegetables. But when I want a meat fix, then we go to the Moslem restaurant and order Gou Bao Rou. It's all meat, and similar to sweet and sour pork. However, it's made with tender slices of beef, battered and fried with a sweet and sour sauce on them, and very delicious. We also often have jiaozi at this same restaurant which has a meat filling.

Sometimes, I'll buy some baozi from a street vendor when I want a quick and easy lunch. It's a kind of steamed bun with a meat filling. I can buy about 10 of them for 2 yuan and that makes a filling lunch.

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