December 31, 2012

Pragmatism vs. American Baking

I’m teaching my aiyi how to bake. And she’s getting good. The other day she brought over a date cake she baked all by herself! After receiving the recipe from another foreigner’s baking class two years ago, she was so proud to finally be able to successfully follow the recipe. She’d previously tried to make the cake, but wasn’t sure how. After watching me make several cakes, she’s finally mastered two of the most important baking skills:
  1. Preheat the oven. I think this is often overlooked in China because turning on the empty oven is seen as a frivolous waste of electricity. I now know how to say “If you don’t preheat the oven your cake will not rise!” in Chinese 
  2. Mix the wet ingredients separate from the dry ingredients, and then combine the two. Chinese often know how to make dough for homemade noodles, dumplings and steamed buns; however, their method of “dump it all in and stir” doesn’t work well for cakes.
After watching all the effort of making cut-out Christmas cookies, she said, “This is so complicated!” So I said, “We feel that way when we watch you make jiaozi (dumplings). “ After pondering a few minutes, she came back with “At least with jiaozi, we can eat and get full. Your cookies are just for fun! Make them for fun, eat them for fun! ” Once again, I never truly understood the word “pragmatic” until I lived in China.

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