yesterday, i went to a wedding banquet. the bride and groom, a kindergarten teacher and elementary school teacher, respectively, held a small banquet that nevertheless offered all culinary delights of a cantonese feast: lobster, shrimp, roasted pigeon, different preserved meats, beef cutlets in pepper sauce, a plate of savory preserved meats that are (according to dict.cn) unappetizingly translated as “marinated meat combination”. in chinese their are 卤水 (brine marinade) and 拼盘 (selection – as in my favorite “chef’s selection of desserts”).
i mentioned that i still wanted to dance at weddings (especially now that i’m trying to be a vegetarian and the organizing principal of the meal seemed to a bite of every kind of flesh) and my friend agreed that dancing and/or karaoke (?!) would make the event more festive. she then asked what my husband and i had done for our wedding. i said we had registered.
she laughed and then said, “if you don’t invite people to eat, you’re not married in chinese people’s eyes.”
i asked if my husband should be worried.
“no,” she replied quickly, “i think you should hold a great big fabulous wedding banquet.”
my friend is gentle and kind, with a light touch when the tips of her fingers rest on my forearm, “yes,” she continued dreamily, “think how much fun it would be.”
however, before i was drawn into another debate i couldn’t win (and never when the subject is my life), a group of guests jostled laughingly to our table chanting “big arm, big arm,” a way of drinking where couple’s embrace each other and down an entire glass of wine. the target of this happy teasing were jessica and percy, who had just recently become a couple. they stammered and blushed, and tried to drink through the giggles and cheers.
yes, in addition to eating delicious food, we were imbibing happy wine – the spirits drunk at chinese weddings (喜酒).
in point of subjective fact, one of my favorite chinese characters is 醉 (intoxicated), a word that like its english translation evokes those special moments when we float on happiness – drunk on life and friendship and love… and the happy spirits of the bride and groom. so yes, my friend was right – it is generous to share one’s love through food and drink, drank, drunk.
may all partake.