When the Kids Ate Mice Soup: Chinese Food Tales for a New Yearby
NY Philharmonic raises $920,000 over five-spice smoked salmon
Lazard's Parr says he sticks to local greens when in China
The New York Philharmonic held a Chinese New Year Celebration Tuesday night. Dragons danced during the cocktail hour. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this is the year of the red fire monkey, "exactly what we need."
Then music by Chinese composers filled Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall with chipper flute and wood block sounds. The most unusual piece had short films of old women singing and doing laundry in a small village, to the live accompaniment of the orchestra and a solo harpist. This was Tan Dun’s "Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women." According to the composer’s website, Nu Shu is a "an ancient syllabic script developed by women, in secrecy."
Interesting stuff, but to be honest, by then I was hungry. All I could really think about was moo shu chicken, one of my favorite Chinese dishes.
Before going home for take-out, I filled up on Chinese food party talk. I learned I will never eat as well as Maurice Greenberg, who has his own Chinese chef (and who chairs the Switzerland-based Starr International Foundation, which supports the Philharmonic’s work with the Shanghai Orchestra). I haven’t been to Hong Kong to try Peking Duck, as restructuring banker Ken Buckfire has. But MKP Capital Management’s Richard Lightburn and I do share a taste for hot and sour soup. He eats his at Mr. Chow.
A Sunday night at Shun Lee usually includes the Grand Marnier Prawns for Daria L. Foster, managing partner of Lord Abbett. Oscar Tang expressed enthusiasm for Eight Treasures stuffed duck. The treasures include Chinese ham, sticky rice, dried scallops and Chinese plum.
Frank H. Wu, a member of the Committee of 100, a group focused on U.S.-China relations, said he likes pork butt. The legal scholar also noted a paper he published in Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies titled “The Best ‘Chink’ Food: Dog Eating and the Dilemma of Diversity."
Willem Kookyer, founder of Blenheim Capital, a commodity hedge fund, said when his kids were very young, they toured all over China, including places where only a few words of English were spoken. In one such spot, the family sat down to a set menu they were told would start off with mice soup. “So my kids are looking at me, saying we are not going to eat mice. And I said, you never know. Have you ever tasted mice? But I figured we call it corn, and over there it’s called maize. So it came and it was corn soup. You could see the relief on their faces."
Lazard Ltd. Vice Chairman Gary Parr said he likes to keep his Chinese food healthy: over many business negotiations in the world’s most populous country, he sticks to greens you can’t find in the U.S. He also noted the gala had raised $920,000 for the Philharmonic’s education programs and its partnership with the Shanghai Orchestra.
After the concert, Parr sat down for supper with the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, Liu Jieyi; China’s Consul-General in New York, Zhang Qiyue,; designer Vivienne Tam; Kate Gibbs, who has modeled for Tam; and Dennis Glass, chief executive officer of Lincoln Financial Group. Also present: Klara and Larry Silverstein, who said their favorite Chinese food was what they were about to eat.
The menu suggested it would be a typical gala supper with Chinese flair. It included five-spice smoked salmon with a sesame wonton, Szechuan black cod and grilled filet mignon, and Belgian chocolate mousse with mandarin orange sorbet.
And my dinner? Oops, the boyfriend ordered sushi.