Eating out with my Chinese family or mostly with my in-laws is always a very special occasion. Not because it happens so rarely but due to their interesting behavior which includes that mother-in-law is always right and father-in-law is very careful.
There is something like a pattern to the way everything works out. It usually starts when deciding where and what to eat. Of course I get always asked what I would like to eat but somehow plans change and I get for example not my visit to my favorite BBQ place a second time during our stay! (So evil people, oh how I suffer). This is due to one simple reason, we get invited out of nowhere by other people for the evening or next day so my beloved BBQ is on hold until there is a time slot available.
After all this is settled we need to arrive in time which never works out. Somehow we are always late, for example we should be there at 1pm but we just start leaving by 1pm. But here again it has one very simple reason. Mother-in-law is the one who gets to know what time we should be there but tells us that we should leave by 1pm. So when we arrive she says that she thought it was agreed to leave by 1pm and not to arrive by that time! Sounds weird and it certainly is without being able to provide any further information on why this happens every time (my wife is also confused).
The next hurdle begins when sitting down at our table. Here it starts immediately with father-in-law taking all our tableware and clean it with the wipes he took along. These wipes are dry so all what happens is that in case there was any dirt or similar on them he just spreads it evenly out. Next it’s the turn for mother-in-law by putting the chopsticks into the tea to kill the bacteria. That the tea is already on a temperature to drink and thus not that suitable to fight of germs does not matter. Even better, she fills up one cup of tea and “cleans” each other cup by pouring this very tea from cup to cup resulting once again in a very nice spreading of dirt if it ever was somewhere.
As I wrote in another article so long time ago the most important step is actually before we sit down. In here I have to observe where exactly mother-in-law or any other aunty or grandma is sitting and from there I have to choose the seat furthest away from them. The importance of this step can be explained in a very simple way: survival! Whenever I sit too close to them my plate just keeps on piling more food and whatever I try, I cannot eat up everything. As I was raised in Europe you usually learn to eat everything on you plate which can be in China very quickly be a death sentence (for your waist).
In case there are some leftovers my MIL has always few plastic bags with her or just asks the staff for some food boxes. This might strike you as pretty normal but this food is not for us, nono, it is for the wild cats she feeds in the yard. No matter what food it is or how spicy, she brings it to the cats. These animals are fed so well that they already ignore the occasional mouse sprinting by them but what am I saying, there are of course no mice according to mother-in-law!
After all of this is over the paying starts. When it is just us with the in-laws it does not really matter but as soon as other people are there the battle starts who has to pay. As this is very common in China I won’t go any further detail besides that I have already seen mother-in-law racing one of her friends through a restaurant to see who will be first able to pay…
And now some pictures just to make you a bit hungry
What are you experiences when going out to eat?