Todd's first post – brief history of the dinner

Gung Haggis Fat Choy has been quite a journey from 1999 to 2004. It's pre-history started in 1998 with 16 people in Gloria Smyth's living room. Having never before attended a Robbie Burns dinner, I did my research at the Vancouver Public Library. 

I cooked most of the courses, while other people contributed dishes and other things.  Fiona brought a haggis, Gina made a Buddha's Feast, Rod picked up the Beef Lettuce Wrap.  I cooked up Wintermelon Soup, Snowpeas with Scallops, Steamed Salmon with Ginger and Sesame Oil.  In between each course, somebody read a poem or performed a song.

In 1999 I transformed the dinner into a fundraiser dinner for my dragon boat team – 40 people attended and we made $50 but at least I didn't have to cook anymore.  I brought my accordion and led singalongs of Scotland the Brave.  Guests such as Jim Wong-Chu read poetry and Sean Gunn played guitar and sang his Chinese Canadian folk songs.

Each year the dinner has roughly doubled in size. In 2001, we maxed out the New Grandview Szechwan Restaurant at 100 seats. In 2002, we maxed out the Spicy Court Restaurant with 200 seats in a snow storm. In 2003, we filled 390 seats at the Flamingo Restaurant on Fraser St.  

Each year the number and quality of performers has increased. Catherine McLellan came as a co host and singer for '00 and '01.  Pat Coventon first performed as accompanist in '00 and expanded to band leader, and featured performer every year up to '03.  Along the way Trev Sue-A-Quan and Joe McDonald with Brave Waves were added.  Sonia Bakker became a co-host when Catherine moved to California, and Ula Shines became a co-host in '03 after being a singer for '01 and '02.  12 year old Alex Sachs was featured on violin in '03.

For 2004, Gung Haggis Fat Choy expands to two nights – Jan 24 & 25. CBC television will also broadcast a performance special titled Gung Haggis Fat Choy – based on the concepts of my dinner. More details and links to the tv special later on…

I am grateful to all the friends and supporters that have enjoyed Gung Haggis Fat Choy: the dinner. But especially to all the performers over the years… Without their contributions, there would be no show – just the food. It is the performances that give the cultural context to each dish.

Performance Highlights have included Jim Wong-Chu's poem “Recipe For Tea” that breathes new meaning to the migration of tea from China. Sean Gunn's songs describe the hardships of the Chinese pioneers in Canada. Joe McDonald's bagpipes have become a traditional staple alongside the rice, noodles and haggis. Pat Coventon's musical support in this wacky idea along with his sound system that we have also outgrown along with 2 smaller restaurants.

I hope that this weblog created with Roland Taglao, will continue the expansion of my wacky view of multi/intra-culturalism. I mean… any dinner that expands from 40 to 800 people in 6 years, is featured on national radio and spawns a CBC television special… must be doing something right, eh? Peace & Blessings, Todd

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