Bacco a Wenzhou

Chinese dishes (fair use)

Alcuni giorni fa (sett. 2007; orig. inglese) il gruppo d’amici ha deciso per una cena cinese a casa nostra. Ci piace la cucina cinese, non tanto per la novità quanto per la qualità che sta migliorando mentre il prezzo continua ad essere molto basso (consiglio e commento del più giovane del gruppo). Mi reco dunque in un ristorante cinese non lontano da casa, in fondo a via Cavour, a due passi da via dei Fori Imperiali, e ordino una cena take-away per otto. Non ero mai entrato in quel ristorante e wow, non so come, sono rimasto affascinato sia dal luogo che dalle persone che vi lavoravano.

Nel ristorante, elegante quanto basta, ho notato subito la professionalità, il lavoro duro e il dinamismo regnante, ognuno impegnandosi in maniera seria e scrupolosa. Credo si trattasse di un intero clan familiare perché sembravano tutti parenti e tutte le età vi erano rappresentate: adolescenti di sesso maschile che servivano ai tavoli; donne di mezza età che organizzavano un po’ tutto facendo calcoli e attaccando con gli spilli dei piccoli foglietti al muro; ragazze graziose, anch’esse al servizio dei tavoli, con i vestiti tradizionali di seta impreziositi da bei motivi colorati; un uomo di mezza età, credo il marito di una delle donne degli spilli, il viso autorevole e serio, probabilmente il capo del gruppo; infine la signora più anziana, i capelli bianchi, la nonna certamente, che stava alla cassa e lavorava davvero alla grande nonostante l’età, attentissima a tutto quello che le accadeva intorno mentre, con solennità e vigore, batteva sui tasti della cassa i prezzi dei clienti.

Le ho fatto un sorriso e lei ha risposto con un altro sorriso. I romani, nonostante siano dei bonaccioni, trovano difficoltà a capire questa gente chiusa e riservata che però, quando si sente considerata non aliena bensì umana, si apre con una certa disponibilità. Le dico che avevo qualche conoscenza in Cina, ho chiesto di quale città fossero, che cinese parlassero e se la loro lingua fosse simile al cantonese o al mandarino. Risponde che la loro lingua non ha niente a che vedere né con l’uno né con l’altro, è qualcosa di completamente diverso.

Il modo in cui l’ha detto m’ha fatto capire che le piaceva rispondermi, anche se non era palese (ma io l’ho percepito lo stesso).

Ha detto che erano tutti di Wenzhou, città – ho controllato dopo – della provincia sud-orientale di Zhejiang, “sul delta del Ou Jiang, con edifici e dintorni pittoreschi. Il porto (…) molto attivo nel secolo 19° (esportazione di tè), fu usato successivamente solo per la pesca” (La Piccola Treccani). Di qui l’emigrazione all’estero di una parte di questa gente attiva che “gode di reputazione imprenditoriale e fa nascere ristoranti, negozi al dettaglio e all’ingrosso nei paesi d’adozione” (Wikipedia inglese).

Il nome Wenzhou, tremendo, lo ricordo solo perché il tizio che penso fosse il capo si è avvicinato ed è stato ben lieto di scrivermelo su un foglio, e mi ha chiesto se fossi un vero romano, e io gli ho risposto sì, sono un vero romano, e dopo poco ho come avvertito che tutti percepivano, d’un tratto, l’interesse che avevo per loro. Una cosa strana, lo so, ma è stato proprio così. Si sono come improvvisamente accorti (saranno stati una ventina e la sala era abbastanza grande) che ero sympathetic, che vi era cioè una qualche sintonia emotiva.

Mifu’s Chinese calligraphy. Public domain

La cosa era strana anche per me. Forse qualcuno avrà ascoltato da lontano la conversazione tra me e i due personaggi, rapidi bisbigli cinesi si saranno propagati rendendo improvvisamente tutti impercettibilmente attenti, impercettibilmente benevoli, mentre due ragazzi mi pregavano di tanto in tanto di sedermi mentre aspettavo (finché alla fine accettai) e mi offrivano in omaggio un liquore, una specie di bomba (di cui ho bevuto tre bicchierini). Ho avvertito questa quasi impercettibile attenzione, queste, non so come dire, vibrazioni (vibes) di disponibilità circolanti, malgrado loro non mostrassero quasi nulla.

I cinesi, apparentemente delicati, sono forti come l’acciaio, sono intelligenti ed evidentemente – così almeno ho concluso da quel giorno – telepatici, mentre qui la gente li considera un popolo muro, qualcosa di indecifrabile e con la faccia di marmo (più divertente di faccia di bronzo, poiché uso l’espressione con i miei studenti IT cinesi, io sfotto loro, loro sfottono me). Insomma, ho sentito nettamente che tutti all’improvviso provavano sincera simpatia per questo alieno (anche noi siamo infatti alieni per loro, e ci vedono tutti uguali 😱 ).

E’ stata una così bella serata, la mia fantasia volava in alto – non senza qualche responsabilità della nitro-glicerina che m’ero bevuto – e una brezza fresca venendo chissà da dove sembrava che i quadri alle pareti oscillassero confusamente (assieme ai visi attorno che mi sorridevano).

E’ stato allora che ho sentito la presenza del dio e la vista mi s’è appannata …

Dionysus, Louvre (© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5)

A casa la cena cinese è stata un successo. Durata per ore, come solo le cene romane possono durare, coi piatti cinesi arricchiti da vivande nostrali e il tutto annaffiato non dalla bomba, questa volta (i contatti con gli dei vanno presi con cautela), ma da un toscano Galestro ghiacciato, veramente niente male. Non avevo portato infatti con me il liquore cinese, un normale liquore in realtà, ma a me il liquore cinese fa quest’effetto, che ve devo di’.

Confesso però che devo alla sberla cinese un breve, intenso incontro con Bacco-Dioniso, figlio di Semele e di Giove, avvenuto sia all’interno d’un ristorante della lontana Wenzhou, sia poco dopo all’aria fresca del venticello romano, più o meno in mezzo all’antica Suburra.

Mentre nel ristorante la testa mi girava e la vista s’indeboliva, ricordo vagamente che mi fu consegnata con delicatezza la cena take-away.

Attimi dopo me ne tornavo a casa in motorino, serpeggiando serpeggiando come un uccello impazzito (e felice), l’aria fresca pungente della sera sulla faccia.

Roma, l’eterna scostumata, magnifica, imperiale, sorrideva tutt’intorno.

Colosseo. Fair use

Saw Bacchus in Wenzhou

Chinese dishes (fair use)

A few days ago (sept 2007, traduzione italiana) our bunch of friends decided to have a Chinese dinner at our home. Everyone loves Chinese cooking. This food is of course not a novelty any more even here, but since while getting better it keeps being incredibly cheap, we still eat it a lot and like it (a lot.)

Advised by the youngest of us all I therefore went to this Chinese restaurant close by, located at the end of Via Cavour, not far from Via dei Fori Imperiali. I ordered a take-away meal for 8. I had never been there before. Wow was I surprised by the place and by the people!

The restaurant was elegant enough. I admired the professionalism, dynamism and hard working style that reigned in the place, everybody being so serious and dedicated.

A big family clan, I believe, with all ages being present: male teenagers serving tables; middle-aged women organising, calculating, pinning small sheets of purple paper to the wall; young sweet-looking women serving too, clad in traditional silk dresses with fine motifs on them; a man who I think was the husband of one of the older women and apparently the boss; the eldest woman finally, white-haired, the grandmother definitely, who worked hard at the counter despite her age, so incredibly attentive to all that happened and typing the bills on the counter keys with solemn vigour.

I smiled at her and she smiled back. Romans are good-natured but they have some difficulty in understanding such closed-up and reserved people who nonetheless, when they feel one doesn’t perceive them as aliens, quickly respond. I told her I had a few friends from China and asked her what town they came from, what type of Chinese language they spoke, whether their language was Cantonese- or Mandarin-related. She said that their speech was related to none of them, that it was an entirely different language. The way she said it revealed she enjoyed answering to me even though it was not apparent (although I felt it clearly.)

She then said they all came from Wenzhou, which (I later learned) is a town in the south-eastern Zhejiang province residing “on the Ou Jiang delta, with picturesque buildings and surroundings. The port (…) very active in the 19th century (tea export) was later used for fishing only” (La Piccola Treccani). Thence the emigration to foreign countries of large portions of these active people with “a reputation for being an enterprising folk who starts restaurants, retail and wholesale businesses in their adopted countries.”

Wenzhou. Such a difficult word I remember only because the guy got close – the one I thought to be the boss – and was so pleased to write it down for me, and he asked me if I was a real Roman, and I said yes, I am a real Roman, and after a while I realised ALL of them suddenly knew this Roman had an interest in them. They sort of suddenly knew I was sympathetic.

Mifu’s Chinese calligraphy. Public domain

Someone probably overhearing the said conversation and exchanging quick Chinese whispers they all were immediately aware of everything getting immediately hidden-attentive, hidden-agreeable, while two young men prayed me several times to please sit down while waiting for my package (till I finally accepted) and offered me for free this unbelievable Chinese H-bomb liquor (of which I drank three shots.)

I felt this quasi imperceptible attention, these good vibes in the air despite their not showing it much. Chinese people are delicate, steel-strong, intelligent and – I must gather – telepathic, while most of the people here consider them a totally indecipherable marble-faced folk – funnier than stone-faced, it being a joke I have with some Hong Kong IT students: I tease them, they tease me back.

Oh such a lovely lovely evening it was! My fantasy was flying high, this nitro-glycerine booze being not totally guiltless.

And then – like a sudden cool breeze coming from nowhere … I looking at the paintings around … looking at the smiling faces around – I clearly felt like the presence of a God as my sight began to blur …

Dionysus, Louvre (© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5)

At home our Chinese dinner was a success. It went on and on as only Roman dinners can go (for hours,) mixing both Chinese and Italian dishes washed down with an icy Italian white this time though, a tuscan Galestro not at all bad.

I didn’t bring any of the Chinese H-bomb though (meeting Gods too often can be a problem beyond a doubt.) I in fact know I owe that stuff a brief, intense encounter with Bacchus-Dionysus (son of Semele and Jupiter) in that Wenzhou restaurant and in the cool open air outside, a place right at the border of the ancient Roman Subura.

While actually my sight slightly blurred within the restaurant I remember I was gently given my take-away meal.

Moments later I was driving back home with my motorbike, winding and winding like a crazy birdie, fresh crisp air on my ecstatic face.

Rome, the eternal loose woman, imperial, magnificent, was smiling all around.

Colosseum. Fair use

Saw Bacchus in Wenzhou

Chinese Meal. Fair use

A few days ago our bunch of friends decided to have a Chinese dinner at our home. Everyone loves Chinese cooking. This food is of course not a novelty any more even here, but since while getting better it keeps being incredibly cheap, we still eat it a lot and like it (a lot.)

Advised by the youngest of us all I therefore went to this Chinese restaurant close by, located at the end of Via Cavour, not far from Via dei Fori Imperiali. I ordered a take-away meal for 8. I had never been there before. Wow was I surprised by the place and by the people!

The restaurant was elegant enough. I admired the professionalism, dynamism and hard working style that reigned in the place, everybody being so serious and dedicated.

A big family clan, I believe, with all ages being present: male teenagers serving tables; middle-aged women organising, calculating, pinning small sheets of purple paper to the wall; young sweet-looking women serving too, clad in traditional silk dresses with fine motifs on them; a man who I think was the husband of one of the older women and apparently the boss; the eldest woman finally, white-haired, the grandmother definitely, who worked hard at the counter despite her age, so incredibly attentive to all that happened and typing the bills on the counter keys with solemn vigour.

I smiled at her and she smiled back. Romans are good-natured but they have some difficulty in understanding such closed-up and reserved people who nonetheless, when they feel one doesn’t perceive them as aliens, quickly respond. I told her I had a few friends from China and asked her what town they came from, what type of Chinese language they spoke, whether their language was Cantonese- or Mandarin-related. She said that their speech was related to none of them, that it was an entirely different language. The way she said it revealed she enjoyed answering to me even though it was not apparent (although I felt it clearly.)

She then said they all came from Wenzhou, which (I later learned) is a town in the south-eastern Zhejiang province residing “on the Ou Jiang delta, with picturesque buildings and surroundings. The port (…) very active in the 19th century (tea export) was later used for fishing only” (La Piccola Treccani). Thence the emigration to foreign countries of large portions of these active people with “a reputation for being an enterprising folk who starts restaurants, retail and wholesale businesses in their adopted countries.”

Wenzhou. Such a difficult word I remember only because the guy got close – the one I thought to be the boss – and was so pleased to write it down for me, and he asked me if I was a real Roman, and I said yes, I am a real Roman, and after a while I realised ALL of them suddenly knew this Roman had an interest in them. They sort of suddenly knew I was sympathetic.

Mifu’s Chinese calligraphy. Public Domain

Someone probably overhearing the said conversation and exchanging quick Chinese whispers they all were immediately aware of everything getting immediately hidden-attentive, hidden-agreeable, while two young men prayed me several times to please sit down while waiting for my package (till I finally accepted) and offered me gratis this unbelievable Chinese H-bomb liquor (of which I drank two shots.)

I felt this quasi imperceptible attention, these good vibes in the air despite their not showing it much. Chinese people are delicate, steel-strong, intelligent and – I must gather – telepathic, while most of the people here consider them a totally indecipherable marble-faced folk – funnier than stone-faced, it is a joke I have with some Hong Kong IT students: I tease them, they tease me back.

Oh such a lovely lovely evening it was! My fantasy was flying high, this nitro-glycerine booze being not totally guiltless.

And then – like a sudden cool breeze coming from nowhere … I looking at the paintings around … looking at the smiling faces around – I clearly felt like the presence of a God as my sight began to blur …

Bacchus-Dionysos. Louvre. Public Domain

At home our Chinese dinner was a success. It went on and on as only Roman dinners can go (for hours,) mixing both Chinese and Italian dishes washed down with an icy Italian white this time though, a tuscan Galestro not at all bad.

I didn’t bring any of the Chinese H-bomb though (meeting Gods too often can be a problem beyond a doubt.) I in fact know I owe that stuff a brief, intense encounter with Bacchus-Dionysus (son of Semele and Jupiter) in that Wenzhou restaurant and in the cool open air outside, a place right at the border of the ancient Roman Subura.

While actually my sight slightly blurred within the restaurant I remember I was gently given my take-away meal.

Bacchus-Dionysus. Louvre. Face. Public Domain

Moments later I was driving back home with my motorbike, winding and winding like a crazy birdie, fresh crisp air on my ecstatic face.

Rome, the eternal loose woman, imperial, magnificent, was smiling all around.

Colosseum. Fair use

Italian version