The Dining Conversation

I absolutely love dinnertime. It’s during dinner that you and the people you love get to gather around the table, catch up on life, share stories and laugh together. It’s the time you finally get to wind down, relax and enjoy the comforts of familiarity and food.

In the Tsang household, we turn on the TV and watch the Cantonese news and Chinese dramas on the Chinese channel. This has been the tradition as far back as I can remember. We would, together, predict what would happen in the show – “The women’s going to die!”. We’d crack jokes about fobby Taiwanese hipsters on lame entertainment shows. As a family unit, we would give updates about our individual lives during commercial breaks.

On average, our family dinners would last around an hour and 45 minutes. Part of that might be some cleaning up and cutting fruit as dessert, but it was hefty chunk of time. Our lives beyond work revolve around dinner.

I did something a little different for dinner tonight. Winnie and I cooked a full home-cooked Chinese meal to bring over to Mrs. Mildred, a widow at our church, and eat dinner with her. It was a stressful evening to begin with, but Winnie and I managed to cook four dishes. I wish I had photos, but didn’t even think about it. We successfully made:

  • Fried eggs with tomatoes: A traditional Chinese dish with lightly scrambled eggs, ripe tomatoes and tons of sugar
  • Ma-Po Tofu: A slightly spicy, flavorful and saucy mixture of soft tofu & ground pork
  • Garlic Green Beens: Chinese green beans stir-fried with garlic and salt

Why yes, we did in fact make both tofu and eggs. And of course, rice (really can’t eat Chinese food without rice). When we arrived at Mrs. Mildred’s, she invited a friend of hers to join us. Nina was Mildred’s new neighbor down the hall. She is somewhat of an Episcopalian priest and has two son – one is a famous comedian. Nina was born in Argentina and came over to the US as a 26-year old. Mrs. Mildred is currently 87 and Nina is 83. I can’t believe it.

Nina was incredibly engaging in conversation during dinner. She asked questions, told jokes, elaborated on stories and constantly passed our compliments in between everything else. She was joyful and insightful. Though Mrs. Mildred has a bit of trouble hearing once in a while, she was clear, considerate and so interesting. Afterwards, she shared with us her wedding photos; Mrs. Mildred was a goooorgeous young woman and had a beautiful wedding gown to boot.

I learned the following life lessons from dinner tonight-

  1. People are worth your time to get to know
  2. Everyone has a story to tell
  3. There’s no better time to really get to know someone than over dinner
  4. Give and it shall be given unto you
  5. If you want to be a blessing to someone, you may be surprised at how blessed you are afterwards yourself

One day, I hope to be young at heart too. And with a heart for God like Mrs. Mildred.

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