Tonight we celebrated Chinese New Year with our retired and semi-retired sisters. This feast was initiated and instigated by one of our 88 year olds, who volunteered for the foreign missions and went to Taiwan at the age of 60. At that age, she learned how to speak Chinese, and was an instructor in the nursing school at the hospital our community administered in Taiwan. She was with at least four other sisters over the years there, some of whom served there more than thirty years. They had a huge formative impact on the young women they trained. Those young nurses are now in their middle age, and they are still in frequent communication with our sisters.
So, our 88 year old, with the help of some of the other sisters, decorated our refectory with Chinese ornaments, and had the kitchen prepare, or send out for, a feast that included egg rolls, pot stickers, stir fry chicken, rice, fresh pineapple, and fortune cookies. She led us in a prayer in Chinese and explained the customs surrounding Chinese New Year celebrations.
The food was great, and I had a good time. I really love this sister, and so enjoy her spirit of partying and celebrating. She’s very unassuming and soft-spoken, but she gets things done, and exposes us to this other culture which she embraced in her old age.
By ethnic background, she is German-American. She went to our order’s high school and joined the order at age 18. She was trained as a nurse and ministered that way her whole professional life.
Now tell me: how did she become such an adventuresome person, so open to new things? How did she become such an adventurous eater?
I sat in that refectory tonight with many other sisters of her age and background who are completely the opposite: fearful, guarded, unimaginative. In my uncharitable judgment, they are Pills. They are Wet Blankets. With this feast before them, they eat peanut butter and jelly. They scorn anything “foreign.”
How did that happen? I can’t explain it.
Our community is international, but our province is provincial. Up until recently, it was located on the Mid-Atlantic area. Sisters came from fairly homogenous ethnic groups, and the way community life was lived was a mirror of that. Meat and potatoes. Vanilla ice cream. Any other food was “foreign” and largely rejected. Somehow, the adventurous eaters lived through this.
I’m just reflecting on this tonight with a measure of frustration. Mostly, I live my life in this community outside of this mind-set, rather on the periphery. What we eat isn’t really the most important thing.
But I am thankful that I and my fellow adventurous eaters are not restricted to it.