I love Chinese banquets.
Years ago, I partook in a chaotic wedding banquet on a scorching summer day out in the middle of Hubei province, but hardly had time to taste the many dishes.
In fact, it was my wedding banquet.
I knew few of the 200 guests seated at 20 round tables, each table piled with dishes of Hubei delicacies. (It was forbidden for a Communist party member to hold a banquet with more than 10 tables for a child’s wedding, but since I was a foreigner, that rule was waived.)
My task that day was to toast each table with my then-husband. The air-conditioning had conked out early on, so the 90F+ degree heat took a toll on my energy. But I was determined to be a dutiful Chinese wife and daughter-in-law.
While we circulated among the tables, raising our pink plastic cups filled with warm orange soda, the guests ate until their pants couldn’t zip. (And then smoked the pack of mainland cigarettes adorning each place setting.)
My parents, brother, and uncle sat at a special table with special dishes. This photo shows their table, with a dumplings shaped as birds, and buns formed into flowers and baskets.
I’m sad the other guests didn’t receive these fancy dishes. But I’m pretty sure they also sampled the dark soup and the dish of fatty pork, pictured to the right of the flower buns.
By the time I’d finished with my toasts, the guests had finished eating. And so concluded the party.