I had some time spare yesterday amidst the stream of meetings and appointments, so went on a hot date with myself to a bookshop. Of course after drooling on Iain Banks’s latest novel I found myself in the cooking section, first in awe over a book devoted solely to Sichuan cooking. I’m going back to steal the recipes for Suan Cai Yu and Shui Zhu Niu Rou to see just how authentic it is, and maybe the Mapo Doufu that all the recipes I’ve tried have been … you get the idea, but mostly it’s just taunting that Chengdu is so far away.
Next was a book devoted solely to the best best best cooking utensil ever invented, the wok. I miss mine dearly but after discovering that Foshan is one of the few places where you can still buy a hand-beaten wok, I think I’ll be making a side trip there. So when I turned the page and saw such a familiar sight, the old red motorbike taxi with attached chicken cage and plenty of chickens, the yellow 粤 licence plate, I was overcome with homesickness for Guangzhou. Oh the food. This is one of the rare, special cities in the world. Canton is where you go to eat.
There are certain intangible things I love about Guangzhou. Most of them are west of an imaginary and real divider at the north-south avenue of Guangzhou Dadao, and intensify by further increments at 东山口 Dongshan Kou, again at 海珠桥 Haizhu Bridge, reaching their zenith between 人民路 Renmin Road and 黄沙大道 Huangsha Dadao, where the river bends north. North of 中山路 Zhongshan Lu, in all its numbers is a kind of desert map in my mind, like Central Asia used to be, before I used the mnemonic ka-kutap to remember the north-south arrangement of the ~stans, and populated the region with gargantuan tectonic folds bearing names like Tian Shan, Kunlun Shan, and Hindu Kush. South is the river. The river, which bears with it its own micro-climate, as do the twists of lanes and alleys in the parts of Guangzhou that really are Guangzhou and not another frenzied and impenetrable megalopolis.
I spent the afternoon with Fangzheng, Nikita, and Zhijia whom are helping me with the performance of Apocalypse Guangzhou, and as much as they were showing me the Cantonese Opera shops and other places I’m certain will be plundered by the heathen western hordes for art and stuff in the next couple of weeks, mostly I made them teach me Cantonese as we sheltered from the afternoon storms.