When I was living in Hefei as a student I wrote a Facebook post called “Things I haven’t eaten in almost a year and will delight in soon.” This was over five years ago, and the list includes some items that are baffling to me now (salami with mayo on rye bread…?), but overall it’s an interesting reflection of the things that I missed.
Food cravings when you’re living abroad have nothing to do with the food you do have access to—you can be surrounded by delicious and enticing local food but be unable to think of anything but that one item you have no chance of getting. When you’re living abroad, desires for certain foods often morph from nagging pangs in your subconscious to delirium-like urges that overwhelm your mind and seep into your dreams.
And now as I’m looking forward to my trip back to China in the spring, epic food cravings are springing back up. I’ve started to dream about dumplings.
I dream of dipping meat and dough into dark vinegar laced with raw garlic and chili paste. I dream of sitting on a concrete bench in the middle of winter eating steaming dumping out of a cracked bowl. I dream of getting dumplings to go and carrying them home in a plastic bag and sitting on my bed to eat and watch a TV drama. I dream of the restaurant in Changchun that I went to at least three times a week with my best friend, where we would sit for hours and talk about the day and the lessons we learned in the classes we taught. I dream about the time my parents came to visit me in Hefei and their favourite restaurant, the one they still talk about, was a tiny shack on the campus of Anhui University where an old man sold a dozen dumplings for 3 yuan.
Most of all, I dream about the feeling I have after eating something I just can’t get at home.