Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Diversity and the case for Chinese Grandmas

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For those of you who do not know me, I am a city girl. I often talk about the fact that if it "has chlorine and concrete" I am going to like it. I know I should be saying how much 'I love the outdoors', but I don't. The good news is at my age and stage(read mature), I get to say what I want especially when it's about me.
I love nothing more than having some time to wander around a city and my home town of Toronto is one of my favourites. It's not like I don't have a lot of cities to compare it to, I do, and it still comes out on top. My reason is clear, I appreciate diversity.
From one end of the city to the other we have the chance to be able to capture moments in other cultures, languages and ideas in untold numbers of neighbourhoods.
Take yesterday; although we were in Scarborough and not Chinatown, the purpose was the same and that was to go with my family for dim sum. If you have never gone, it's time you did! Dim sum is a brunch-type meal based mostly around individual small dishes that are wheeled through a restaurant on carts. As the cart passes by your table, the server will stop and you can look at what is in the stacked steam baskets or on the plates before making your choice. What I really like is that if it something new, you're only out a couple of bucks if the dish is not to your taste. If it's a dish you really like, it's only a matter of time before another cart carrying your favourite comes around again. As I looked around the restaurant, all I saw were the animated faces of friends and families who had come to share a bite and have a (frequently noisy) visit.
Dim sum has been a tradition in our family since the early 80s when I met my former husband. The marriage ended but dim sum endures and serves as a reminder to all of us about the wonderful time my kids spent with their Chinese grandparents. When the kids were small, my in-laws used to put at least one if not more grandchild into its' car seat and make the trek from Mississauga to Chinatown to go shopping and to have dim sum. One of the things that my mother-in-law really enjoyed was the fact that a lot of the cart ladies were around her age and spoke her dialect. Grandmother to grandmother they would have conversations about how smart my kids were in being able to speak Chinese and use chopsticks because you could tell that they were bi-racial. In truth, my mother-in-law would pretend that the praise wasn't all that important and was somehow expected and that she heard it a lot. That of course was not the case (have you met my kids?) but it was fun to see her obvious "mama" pride. She would alternate between encouraging conversation and waving the cart lady away. She still does it. It still makes me smile.
The Toronto I grew up in has thankfully given way to a place where possibilities for relationships and experiences abound. When I was very young, the most 'exotic' food this WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) girl could get was Italian or North American Chinese food. In today's Toronto, if there is something that I have tried in another country I can probably find it here. If not, there is never an opportunity lost to make a new friend or co-conspirator and to thrill in the hunt. Lucky me :) You too?

2 comments

True, Pj, Toronto has become a great city for diversity, and for dining out. I lean to vegetarian and there's no shortage of good, meat-free restaurants around town. My old favourite, though, is Annapurna-- on Bathurst just south of Dupont. I've been going there for years and have never grown tired of the South Indian mainstays, the daily specials, the carob balls and the chai--
no Starbucks substitute for me. It's a cellphone-free environment and the ambience is soothing enough for concentrated reading and writing. I've read many a chapter and written a good number of poems while sipping the tastiest chai in the city. Is there such a thing as vegetarian dim sum?!

Hi Elana! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I cannot tell you how many times I have passed that restaurant on Bathurst and on your recommendation, I now have the incentive to go in! As far as vegetarian dim sum is concerned, one of my daughters is a vegetarian, there are numerous dumplings and rice rolls that have only vegetables not to mention being able to order a rice or noodle dish from the menu. Hope this helps :) Happy eating/writing/reading/strolling...Pj

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Pj Kwong

Pj Kwong is a figure skating expert and writer currently working for CBC Sports. Her first book, Taking the Ice: Success Stories from the World of Canadian Figure Skating (BookLand Press), will be in stores in September 2010.

Go to Pj Kwong’s Author Page