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Excerpts from
The Chopsticks-Fork Principle:
A Memoir and Manual

PREFACE: GOING AROUND
We had stories and we gave them to our son, William. Heavy with intent, they were the ballast for our shared and separate journeys, steadying us through the surprises and arguments, the differences and similarities. As reminders of our own rebellion and conformity, the stories helped us explore places where parents fear to tread and children will. As portents of our own future, they centered a couple from the Age of Aquarius and Confucius for a voyage with a kid who introduced us to Calvin and Hobbes cartoons and thinks Wall Street is the hub of the universe.

Using the stories, we talked ourselves into a relationship with a child who would not only think it's okay that his parents do this sort of thing, but would also revel in telling them back. The going around and coming around was possible because the stories were more than "just the facts" about more than the "strictly personal." As such, they gained the power to shape our lives and influence how others perceive us and the worlds we live in. This book is the result of believing that such empowerment can be shared.


Could Mr. Gunnar [my high school biology teacher] have imagined that the information he gave us about Ovaries would produce my philosophy of cooking? Or, for that matter, anything else I would just as soon not do - like shopping or digging ditches (some call it "gardening"). There I was, back from our honeymoon, my cup of steaming coffee in hand, ready to luxuriate in the tranquility of reading the paper. Without looking up, I heard Bennett sit down. After a few minutes, I realized he was too quiet. Putting down the paper, I saw him sitting there, bolt upright, a hand on either side of an imaginary plate, holding a nonexistent fork and knife.
"What're you doing?"
"I'm waiting."
"For what?"
"For breakfast."

It must have been the shock, because I actually got up and made the "American Breakfast" my father was so fond of - bacon, eggs, toast, juice and coffee. At lunch, he appeared out of nowhere and sat again, waiting. Same at dinner. Day in, day out, it was the same. He could be creating the most important piece of artwork to hit the scene since Picasso yet, like clockwork, he'd show up at that kitchen table and wait. Worse, he kept muttering things like, "Meat" and "Potatoes." I didn't know they were addictive, but I guess when your mother has fed you that sort of thing on a regular basis, it can be. Anyway, I started to bastardize the Chinese dishes with extra slivers of beef. As to potatoes? "No way. Eat rice."

This went on for a while. Then, one day, as he sat and waited, he announced, "I decided to be a vegetarian."
They say that a quick blow to the head can be the cause as well as the cure for amnesia. It worked for me. Remembering Mr. Gunnar and those ovaries, I informed Bennett of my new Philosophy of Cooking: I was born with just so many. So many eggs, so many dinners, so many trips, so many ditches. When they're gone, they're gone and there's no use wishing for more. Ovaries, not women, run out.

Cultures who have respected the crone, the post-menopausal, know this. The dynamics is natural, mathematical - not personal, and certainly not moral. If everyone knows that they're going to run out (and that, probably, the later ones aren't nearly as energetic or enthusiastic as the earlier), then everyone can look at this one as, possibly, the last one. So: Appreciate the appearance of each, but Be Prepared for their total disappearance. Eggs, dinners, trips, ditches - when they're gone, they're gone. That's how it goes and there's no one to blame.
During the rest of my hospital stay [in the maternity ward], I started to sort through the kinds of experiences William would have and what we would or wouldn't make of them. Remembering Mr. Gunnar, my high school biology teacher, I recalled his lecture on Hybrid Vigor. The idea was that when two different strains of corn were crossed, the result was greater than was normal for either parent type.

The idea was powerful – and not just botanically. And William would be the proof. We wouldn’t just throw him into The Great Melting Pot, vaguely hoping he’d emerge able to do more than grunt in two languages or co-exist in the vicinity of his grandparents without grossing them out. If he was to converse while dining – not just eating – and be interesting to people who didn’t have to love him, we had to be much more careful and deliberate about his cultural nurturing. Lying in my arms, looking like Winston Churchill gone Asian, it was obvious that, physically, we had the makings for such an experiment. And that, intellectually, we had the wealth of his Bao and Bean heritage – from “The Middle Kingdom” to its American equivalent, “The Lawn” at the University of Virginia. Practically, however, I did, every so often, wonder how much difference it would make that William wasn't an ear of corn.

For more details about The Chopsticks-Fork Principle, please link here.

To read an excerpt printed in the Asians in America Magazine, please click here.
 
About Cathy Bao Bean

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Articles and Reviews on the Web

A RebeccaReads.com Review by Rebecca Brown

Epoch Times article (in Chinese)

Daijuan.com article (in Chinese)

red  square bullet image To read an excerpt from The Chopsticks-Fork Principle printed in the Asians in America Magazine, please click here.

red  square bullet image Click here to read a profile of Cathy on the Claremont Graduate University web site.

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Programs, Workshops, and Book Signings

red  square bullet image As philosopher, writer, and educational consultant, Cathy Bao Bean has presented a wide range of programs throughout the United States.

Now, with the publication of her first book, Cathy welcomes the opportunity to speak at libraries, book stores, schools, and other organizations. To contact the author for personal appearances, please call : 908-852-7426 or submit a request by email.

 

Save the Dates
Wednesday - Friday
June 6 - 8, 2012

Author Cathy Bao Bean will be teaching at the SVHE Summer Workshop for Teachers at University of International Business & Economics, Beijing. Please link here for more details.

Bilingual Reader
The Chopsticks-Fork Principle, A Bilingual Reader
Cathy and co-author DongDong Chen invite you to learn more about The Chopsticks-Fork Principle X 2: A Bilingual Reader (English and Chinese Edition) -- a unique, bilingual, cross-cultural reader.
Read about it
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Click here to order The Chopsticks-Fork Principle X 2: A Bilingual Reader (paperback only).





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