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A Memoir and Manual
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.
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
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?"
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.
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,
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
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
To read an excerpt printed in the Asians in America Magazine, please click
About Cathy Bao Bean
more detailed information about Cathy Bao Bean, please click
Articles and Reviews on the Web
• A RebeccaReads.com Review by Rebecca Brown
Times article (in Chinese)
• Daijuan.com article (in Chinese)
read an excerpt from The Chopsticks-Fork Principle printed
in the Asians in America Magazine, please click
Click here to read a profile of Cathy on the Claremont Graduate University web site.
Click here to read the Wikipedia article about Cathy Bao Bean.
Programs, Workshops, and Book Signings
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
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.
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.
Click here to order The Chopsticks-Fork Principle X 2: A Bilingual Reader (paperback only).
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