Monday, March 14, 2011


Bing's laugh was loud and infectious, a joyful presence in my freshman year. She was the oldest of four, the daughter of immigrants. Her family owned two upscale restaurants in the D.C. area; her uncle owned the Yenching in Harvard Square. On her birthday, Bing took a group of us out for a Chinese banquet, where dish after dish after dish emerged, like nothing I'd ever eaten before. I think of Bing when I'm cooking from Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge. She was my introduction to Chinese cuisine.

Last night after I dropped off Big Guy, I did something I would not have known how to do without college friend: I went into a Chinese grocery store. I'd been in this one once before, but that night my kids swarmed around choosing "mystery candy" (treats unlabeled in English), and I hadn't been able to give the place proper attention.

This time I was solo, and I strolled the crowded aisles with pleasure. I picked up fabulous green beans for under a dollar a pound, bright green Chinese broccoli, crunchy baby bok choy. There were bags of frozen sweet-bean buns, salted fried broad beans, and knockoff digestive biscuits for the kids. Rice wine for cooking, fresh noodles for tomorrow's dinner. Four bags of food for roughly $30.

I hopped back on the train and opened up Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip, which had Big Guy in Bing-worthy laughter on the way out. I nibbled a few haw flakes, and enjoyed my book, and thought fondly of my long-ago friend, whose life still enriches mine today.


  1. Living in New York opens up all types of opportunities for you that I have never been able to experience. I love Chinese food but have never been able to shop in a Chinese store. What a treat that would be.

  2. Haw flakes! I've had them, and I still don't know what they are.

    I remember those dinners, feasts really.

  3. They're made from the fruit of the Chinese hawthorne (or so Wikipedia tells me).