Dim Sum Diaries

Ancient Chinese Secrets Revealed...

*Cue Joy Luck Club Music*

It is a matrilineal tradition that is passed from generation to generation. My grandmother passed on its secrets to her daughters. My mother passed it on to my sister and me. Many attempt, but few attain the discipline required to perfect this age-old ritual.

It is the ancient practice of fighting for the check after dinner.

Don't ask me to explain it. I don't know if it is a Chinese thing, but I do know it is my family thing. It is paticularly amusing when my in-laws (who are Caucasian) watch in bewilderment as three otherwise dignifed Chinese women (one of whom is their daughter-in-law) really mix it up.

About three-fourths of the way through dinner, the women in my family pretend to casually eat, but secretly they are calculating the most efficient way to get the bill from the waiter and pay.

Technique #1:

One may use the smooth move of pretending to go to the bathroom, absconding with the bill on the way and paying surreptitiously.

Technique #2:

Or one may repeatedly proclaim loudly that "I'm paying the bill okay?????" in order to stake the first claim.

Fallback Technique #3 (All Hell Breaks Loose):

Failing those measures, when the waiter brings the check over, a physical scuffle ensues. When the three of us are thrown into the mix, mom will grab the check first. Sis and I grab a hold of the other end of the check and a tug of war begins. Techniques such as pinchies and tickling are considered fair game. My dad just sits back and watches in amusement. At first it is all fun and laughs, but when the wrestling ensues in earnest, it usually ends with someone getting really pissed off.

In this paticular instance, I was not a contestant. Mom and Sis were duking it out.

"SAY-BAT-POH!" my mom sneered at my sister in frustration because her daughter was not being obedient.

"What is this?" my sister cried. "Mom called me a SAY-BAT-POH! Hah hah! Mom, you gave birth to a SAY-BAT-POH!!"

Now my mom was really pissed. Sis ended up winning the wrestling match. The best part of this ritual is flaunting the fact that you won and were able to pay the bill. Which she did. Again.

Side note: Since my Chinese isn't that great, I called my dad for some clarification on Chinese words.

"Hey dad, what does SAY-BAT-POH mean?" I query.

There is a pained silence on the other end.

"Why don't you ask your mother?" he replies. He quickly hands the phone off to my mom.

"So mom, what is SAY-BAT-POH?"

"It means yucky 'woman'," she whispers.

"What was that? I can't hear you," I ask.

"It means YUCKY WOMAN, okay?" she says more loudly, exasperated now.

"Cool, I can't wait to blog about this!" I chirp happily.