One of the adjustments that can be made when visiting another country is to change your diet to match what the locals eat. We haven’t made a big adjustment. For example, Grandma has toast and scrambled eggs for breakfast with a glass of milk. I have oatmeal and scrambled eggs with lots of water. This is very similar to what we eat when we’re home in California. A common lunch for us and our grandkids is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Where things get interesting is the evening meal.
It takes a little work, but it is possible to get almost everything that you could find in a U.S. grocery store here in Beijing. There are even stores that specialize in International imports and often it is possible to find the same brand that would be purchased back home. I mistakenly thought that our kids had preserved their home diet when they came to Beijing. My son quickly corrected me. Since Grandma often cooks, we’re eating very well, but we’re eating foods from home more often than they would if we weren’t here.
Pizza is definitely a favorite here and Friday nights are pizza night. Grandpa always eats too much and pays for it the next day. One of the other favorites we call tacos. The essential ingredients are refried beans, meat, cheese, chopped vegetables, and tortillas. This is a “make it yourself” meal that everyone enjoys. There is always a request for more tortillas and there are very few leftovers. One of my grandsons loves Tabasco sauce and pours it on every taco he eats. He would love it if we get the large bottle of Tabasco sauce that is readily available at Costco at home.
Yesterday was our daughter-in-law’s birthday and she wanted hot pot for the celebration meal. We had never had this before. She had gotten a hot pot set for Christmas and this would be its first use. The preparation began with a trip to the store to purchase all the ingredients that would go in the pot. For vegetables we had spinach, lettuce, kelp, sweet potato, mushrooms, and lotus root. There were also a couple of items that were dough wrapped around stuffing. There were noodles and very thinly sliced meat. Finally, there was a peanut sauce that we would use for dipping and cooling the spicy heat of the various ingredients.
Our hot pot had two sides. One was for spicy and the other was for plain. Once the water boiled the hot pot spices were dropped in the water. The spices come in a block and seemed to have the consistency of a bouillon cube. Mixed in the oil and spices were small red peppers and numbing spice. Once this all dissolved and the water returned to a boil, we were ready to begin our meal.
Bits of each of the items are dropped in the pot to cook. When they float to the top, they are ready to be pulled out, dipped in the peanut sauce, and eaten. This was quite a challenge for me since we were using chopsticks. I have done well with chopsticks when eating rice dishes, but I seemed to be very uncoordinated when attempting to get things out of the hot pot. I finally surrendered and asked for a slotted spoon to use.
I was very proud of Grandma. She gave most things a try and probably would have eaten more if we hadn’t gotten some of the spicy side oil into the plain side water. She still tried a few things, but when she got a bit that was really spicy, she made a quick run to the kitchen to get a big drink of water. She finished her meal with a PBJ. This wasn’t the hottest thing I’ve ever eaten, but it was spicy hot. Grandma wasn’t the only one using the plain side of the pot. Two of our grandchildren also do not like the hot and spicy food.
My favorites were the sweet potato, spinach, noodles, and meat. It was a wonderful meal and very much a group experience. The pace of the meal is also slower than others, because you must wait for your items to cook before pulling them out to eat. I don’t see us doing this once we’re back home, so this will be a unique Chinese experience.
The final picture in the collection below is a picture taken out of our apartment window at about 8 PM. I included it because it shows that people are returning to Beijing. During the New Year celebration most of the windows were dark. There are many windows that remain dark in the building directly across from us. The streets remain deserted as we wait for the virus to pass.