Monday, August 16, 2010

In Pursuit of Dim Sum

The first thing I did when I found out I lost my job last month? I booked a plane ticket to see my parents.

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King's first subway ride.

I didn’t know how I was going to fit baby King into my travel plans but I just knew it had to be done. We all have our ways of coping with stress and for me, my default is escaping to the home where I grew up. Once in a while, especially when so many things in life are uncertain, I just need that space to be able to curl up into a fetal position and suck on my thumb. Hard. And I know that with my parents I will always have a warm room, a home cooked meal, people to talk to, and someone else’s credit card to spend.

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Patrick, of course, was not so keen on my taking his son 400 miles away from him for a whole week. He asked me when I told him that I was leaving, “What are you running away from? Do you really think you will find happiness just by leaving this place?”

And to that, I answered, “I am not looking for happiness. I’m just in pursuit of dim sum.”

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Eating dim sum, Chinese appetizers like dumplings and pork steam buns, brings me back to a time when life was so much simpler. When, as a girl of ten, my biggest worry was whether or not my dad would pull through on his promise of getting me a Polly Pocket or at least a small pet, like a hedgehog. And for dim sum, my family always makes the 1.5 hour trek to San Francisco. We start by driving an hour to a neighboring city called Oakland and from there, we hop on the subway to get into Union Square. Even though we can just drive straight to San Francisco, my mom insists on taking the subway every time because it makes the trip feel more foreign and exotic. Or something.

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After spending an afternoon shopping at probably the largest Macy’s you will ever experience and window shopping at high-end boutiques we can only fanaticize about one day being able to afford, we without fail finish the day in Chinatown. We go to Chinatown, ravishing, in pursuit of none other than the most delectable dim sum. And we walk up and down the streets, Grant and Washington and Jackson, to try to find a small hole-in-the-wall for some of the best comfort food we can remember ever having.

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And we are so hungry that we usually stop at the first place that looks decent and order as many plates as our wallets can handle. We take one bite into the shu mai and then another. And another as we try to convince ourselves that this food is actually good. But the meat tastes old and looks too pink and we realize that we have yet again eaten at the wrong restaurant and walk out of the place while leaving behind a whole table of small dishes that we have hardly touched. Our stomachs turn from the spoiled food and even though much is still to be desired, it is getting too late so we just catch the quickest ride back to Oakland from the subway station. In the car on our way home, we talk about what a wonderful trip we had and make plans for our next visit to San Francisco. Because there we always find the best dim sum, naturally.

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So I guess kind of like the pursuit of happiness, or the pursuit of any end goal or destination, it is always the journey that we remember, the journey that counts. The actual outcome dissipates from our minds all too quickly but it is the anticipation, the hard work, the hopes of a good meal—a better life—that drives us to keep going. I just have to find something now, my muse or Atlantis or an air castle, that I can relentlessly chase and romance so that no matter the end result, there will be the story to look back on. So that no matter how fleeting and possibly disappointing the end result, in the quest we shall discover the magic.


  1. amazing post! baby king looks like a doll just sleeping through all the hustle and bustle of a big city. wish i could have been there!

  2. You should come visit Hong Kong for the best dimsum in the world! :)

  3. Can I just say that your son looks like a doll?? Wonderful post/storytelling. Will be back soon...

  4. Baby king is getting so fat! He looks like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghost Busters! Who you gonna call?

  5. Love your opening line! Perfect! I think that escaping home is the smartest thing to do when you are stressed and overwhelmed. I know my life is one million times better because I always know that my parents will catch me when I am falling. And heaven knows I fall a lot!


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