Looking at the girl across from me, it's hard to imagine we're that different. We're both students with roommates, demanding professors, and a worried mother at home. We both have bills to pay and stressful exams to take. Sure she's from China and I'm from the U.S., but are we really all that different?
Dulinglong and I met last summer at Nanjing Normal University. She showed me around the city and we often took turns treating each other to dinner. My last night here I took her to Pizza Hut where she had her first meal with a fork and a knife. Today when Nate and I met up with her, she insisted on taking us to dinner at her dorm cafeteria. I'd eaten here many times before, but tonight was special- there were tablecloths and waitresses and recent graduates all around toasting each other's futures and ordering more beer.
I took this opportunity to ask her a few questions about life and food. Linglong grew up in a small town in Anhui province where she said most families grow their own rice. She taught herself to cook at age six by watching TV cooking shows. She stood on a stool in the kitchen until she was tall enough to reach the counter. She still does most of the cooking at home and welcomes the break of cafeteria dining at school. She was advised to study math and will become a math teacher, though she admits she'd rather study language. In the summers she stays in the city to tutor and send money home. When asked about her cooking expertise, she willingly described a handful of dishes that she can make easily and relatively fast.
My life so far looks much different than hers, with less responsibility and more options. I hope to learn something from her. When I think about the mac 'n cheese and the ramen noodles I usually end up making these days, I wish growing up I'd watched the food network and not the cartoon network.