Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chinese Pancakes

Moo Shu Pork. Peking Duck. These familiar restaurant dishes are traditionally served encased in thin Chinese crepes.

I recall wonderful dinners in the late 1960s at the home of my parents' friends I-Cheng & Jane Loh. Their cook Wang Sao kept a steady stream of her freshly handmade two-layer pancakes coming out of her kitchen while we, in the dining room, gleefully peeled them apart, filled them with savory stuffings, and greedily consumed them for, it seems, hours at a time. As much as I enjoy cooking, the memories of Wang Sao's unceasing work while we ate kept me from every attempting to make my own Chinese pancakes.

In 2007, when my Mom and I visited her friends in the Chinese suburbs of Toronto, we were taken to a restaurant with Beijing cuisine - my first. I had grown up learning that the food of Beijing, as China's capital, was called "Mandarin" and represented the best of dishes from the various regions of China.  Well this Beijing restaurant's menu was quite an education. The menu was filled with crepe-filled dishes. I concluded that Peking Duck became the most famous of their cuisine's filled pancake dishes.

Mom just reminded me, though, of a scene in Ang Lee's movie Eat Drink Man Woman in which the crepes aren't rolled out, as Wang Sao had made them, but are formed by swirling a lump of dough on a hot griddle. She asked for the clip to share with our foodie friends, so here it is:

The film's cook's skill reminded me of Chinese cooks making hand-pulled noodles - getting 1,000 to 16,000 noodle strands from a single lump of dough. It undoubtedly looks a lot easier to do than it really is!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Moment in Time

Mine is one of thousands of photos included in the NY Times'  "A Moment in Time" website! Here it is.

In April, the Times asked its readers throughout the world to be ready to snap a picture of what they were doing on Sunday, May 2nd at 11 a.m., EDT and submit it to them for inclusion in this project. I knew I'd be in church and it would be at the end of the 10 a.m. contemporary service I usually attend at Peace Lutheran Church in Gahanna, Ohio. I took a seat in the area I normally do, thinking I'd get a shot of one of our pastors closing the service, along with the band and contemporary choir.

That Sunday, however, we had a guest preacher: Rev. Dr. Kevin Dudley, from the nearby Church at North Pointe, a fairly new congregation he had started. About 20 of us from Peace had attended a service at North Point in January as a way of starting to get our congregations to know each other as a prelude to possibly working together on ministry efforts.

Well, Rev. Dudley's wonderful sermon was more characteristic of the African-American style of worship service and ran a little longer than our usual 10-12 minute sermons, so the service was still running strong at normal 11 a.m. ending time. Pastor Doug Warburger concluded the service with a special prayer involving members laying hands on Rev. Dudley. Rather than joining the group laying hands on, I remained at my seat to take my photo. It was exactly 11:00 a.m. and that's the shot I got from my seat.

The idea of capturing a unique moment in time on earth and showing what thousands of people were doing at precisely the same moment in time is an intriguing one, and certainly one in line with my own practice of being a photo documentarian. That idea has been applied to the many books of photographs entitled "A Day in the Life of [country name]." Having admired those books, I felt that merely taking a beautiful photograph wasn't the point. I wanted to capture something happening just there and then - something that couldn't have occurred a moment after or before, or a day or year after or before. (Indeed, the Times reported they excluded photos that clearly weren't taken at the prescribed time - for example, a daytime photo submitted from China, where it was nighttime.)

Looking at many of the other photos submitted - many of them quite beautiful as photographs - I am pleased that my photo was one of a small percentage of those that captured a unique moment in time. I hope you enjoy the photos on the website.

If you like my photo, I hope you'll take a moment to "Recommend this photo" by clicking on the link at the bottom right of the photos in the Times website. Here's a link to my photo (please be patient - it will take several seconds for the page to load):

From there, you can surf to other photos by geography (click "Return to globe"), or subject (drop-down list). As the site warns, "Make no plans for the rest of the day" - it's a fascinating site to explore.