Reader: "Well Tze Ming, I suppose you have some kind of (yawn) insightful sociological observations to share about intra-Asian, intergenerational and cross-cultural confluence at the Lantern Festival this weekend." Tze Ming: "Can't talk. Eating."
It went like this:
another wa kueh
su cai bing
cold sesame noodle
another potato pancake
Imitation Sarsi (there does indeed appear to be such a thing)
Sorry it's a bit late, but here are some survival tips and techniques for maximising your culinary pleasure at the Lantern Festival (you can use them next year) as ably demonstrated by my family's years of accumulated experience.
1. Go early.
2. Three people is the optimal number for tackling the food street. For example, you and your parents, or you, a friend, and someone stuck on a stall. You will be able to tag-team the foraging, leaving one person as the 'base' in the centre of the food street out of harm's way or at a stall, while two people run around getting snacks and bringing them back to the base to share. You maximise the variety of snacks without overstuffing yourself too quickly, but don't have such a large pack that you lose people.
3. Don't be embarrassed to bring your own cutlery. This is especially useful for sharing, and minimises the waste of plastic. Yes, my mother brought her own spoon. She almost brought her own plate, but then worried the stallholders might think that was kind of over the top.
4. Cut through the crowds. They're mostly just milling, wondering what to eat. Just weave on through, zap zap zap. You know what you want. Said Alistair to me: "wow, you really do move fast when you're moving towards food." Sigh. It is true. That said, one of the most disturbing things overheard coming from the mouth of a laowai was: "use the buggy like a weapon!"
This mode of movement goes hand in hand with queueing technique. ie, there is none. It is notable that the only actual fully formed queue I saw on Food Street, was the one made up of non-Asian people, queueing patiently for chips, kebabs and hot-dogs.
Compare with mob clamouring for Taiwanese xiao chi.
Which brings us to this very important tip:
5. make sure your mother is wearing a loudly patterned shirt.
This way you can find her just when you think that she has been devoured by the mob above clamouring for Taiwanese xiao chi. Jesus freakin' Christ, where is she?? Has she been trampled into cold-pressed sesame? Where... I... my... Ah. There she is.
Eventually, I noticed that there was some other stuff going on actually inside the park. A few of the DMP affiliates I know were performing, and they managed to wing it acapella to impressive effect, after a sound-glitch left them without a backing track - David Tsai's Mandarin/English flow was nearly as tight as his singlet, and l'il Japanese Dato (he who was once stabbed at a tinny house) was crackling like a Tom Thumb. It was good to see hip-hop hit the Lantern Festival for the first time, complementing that other East-Asian contemporary performing art-turned-Lanternfest Staple - Karaoke. Marc Laureano wowed'em with Spandau Ballet; Roseanne Liang and I did a little Blondie. The MC asks all the singers where they're from; I got quite a cheer when I said "Mt Roskill." In turn, Roseanne raised her fist and chirped: "Remmers!" Dead silence. "Goddamn girlfriend," I said later, "you should've said Howick!"
Further on the 'cool-people' tip, Dr Drasnor's Chinese-themed stencil/graff art is showing at the Auckland Museum again, this Saturday (scroll down). Here's a recent fu and one of his skateboards. This time his dad is doing some too! 'Very collectable' as they say...
Meanwhile on the 'little Chinese geeks' tip, I'm waiting eagerly to see whether this entry wins the primary-school lantern-making competition. Surely the Embassy would, you know, call a few people. A fascinating attempt this, not content with making a lantern with the PRC flag on it, this kid has made a lantern in the physical shape of a flag. It's ...a double-layered symbolic physical recreation of the physical manifestation of a symbolic two-dimensional design! And if you tried to put a candle into it, it's so narrow that the whole thing would start burning; a savage twist to the whole convoluted patriotic exercise in mimesis. Bloody hell! Entry number 234, you are an awesome, awesome artiste-savant, and I ain't making no fun here.
Money quote of the evening from a member of the Embedded Asian Underground, concluding a discussion on how we should feel about the laowai all wandering around the park wearing their Chinese/Vietnamese peasant hats:
"Well, they're the ones looking like idiots."