Haggis and Chopsticks: Vancouver Storytelling Society features a Chinese-Scottish-Canadian theme
Haggis and Chopsticks?
I have tried it. It's best
mixed with rice in a bowl… Bring the bowl to your mouth, and
scoop it in using the chopsticks.
No! Not the food – the storytelling event!
to the promotion of multicultural storytelling and run by volunteers from the
Vancouver Society of Storytelling enjoying their love of story and
Vancouver Storytelling Society presented an
evening of Chinese and Scottish storytellers on January 15th, 2005. Jan. 15, 7:30 pm, Hodson Manor (1254 W. 7th).
Fifty people filled the room, until there was standing room only.
Usually 30 people attend. Expectations and excitement were high.
evening. She opened by stating the theme of the evening was an
idea inspired by my own Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner and poetry
events of bringing together Scottish and Chinese cultures, with a slant
to Canadian adventures. Cric? Crac! has been going on for 20
and regularly features multicultural tales.
I was very pleased that Mary Gavan and Pauline Wenn invited me to
perform with them, and they had trouble containing their gushing
Pauline explained that she was born in Scotland, and while living in
Canada, she discovered that she needed to get in touch with her
Scottish roots. Never having attended a Burns Dinner before, she
decided to host her own – filling her living room with rented tables
and chairs for 25 people. Reminded me of my own first Burns
Supper where my friend Gloria Smyth filled her townhouse living room
with rented chairs and tables for 16 people. Pauline shared her
realization that in Scotland, only men had attended Burns suppers,
because the women had stayed in the kitchen cooking the dinner.
She explained that the “Toast to the Lassies” came about as a thank you
to the ladies for cooking the dinner. (“The rebuttal by the
Lassies” is usually quite sassy.)
Next came a story about a Chinese buddhist monastery in Northern
Scotland was told by a father and son team, Wing Siu Wong with young son Andy.
They followed up the
story by performing a duet on guitar and violin. Then wife
Barbara joined in for a duet on guitar and violin. This event
evoked such a warm and
folksy feeling, easily reminding me of my first Robbie Burns “Gung
Haggis Fat Choy” dinner, where we invited our guests to each share a
poem, song, or food dish for our event.
I am always amazed by what one learns about Burns, and the tale told by
Mary Gavan was no exception. She told a very good story about
Burns posthumous adventures (don't ask). It's a great story…
and really reveals much about the life of Burns.
Pauline Wenn with Toddish McWong at Cric? Crac!: Haggis and Chopsticks story telling evening – photo Deb Martin.
Pauline introduced me as the final performance/story teller before the
intermission. She encouraged me to tell the origins of Gung
Haggis Fat Choy. I first explained about the tartan that I was
wearing – the Ancient Fraser, also known as the Fraser of Lovat.
And of course I had to explain how a University came to be named after
Simon Fraser the explorer, and not the son of the Silver Fox, who had
lost his head after the battle of Culloden for supporting the uprising
of Bonnie Prince Charlie. ( I did admit to first learning about
Prince Charles Edward from the back of a bottle of Drambuie).
This was all my preamble to explain how a university built of
pre-fabricated concrete was able to adopt the traditions of Scottish
culture and the motto of the Fraser Clan – Je Suis Prets (I am ready).
And then I told the story of the origins of Toddish McWong, and the very first Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner.
I finished by reading two poems that I wrote. The first was
inspired after listening to the Rick Scott and Harry Wong childrens cd
titled 5 Elements. It is called 12 Animals of the Zodiac, and
explains how Buddha named the years of the Chinese Calendar. The
second poem is titled “Gung Haggis Fat Choy” and was inspired during
the creation of the Gung Haggis Fat Choy CBC television performance.
A very lovely and friendly intermission filled with lots of treats
followed. Mary Gavan's special haggis pate was served with
crackers. Their were fortune cookies, rum balls, oatmeal cakes,
shortbread, and something like plum pudding – all served with Chinese
Robin Seto began the second half by reading Paul Yee's book “Roses
Singing on New Snow.” Correction: Robin didn't read it….
she performed it! Brilliantly…. Paul would be proud.
It was a pleasure to reconnect with Robin. We had first met back
in the mid-80's through a mutual friend, and hadn't seen each other
since except recently bumping into her at the PNE. Robin shared
that she had seen my pictures in the papers, had heard me on the radio,
and had followed the development of Gung Haggis Fat Choy into a grand
event. She too, comes from a long line of head tax payer
descendants and spoke warmly of Gim Wong, who had served in the
Canadian army with her father. It was very touching to hear Robin
say that she is proud of me. Hopefully we will keep in touch and
she can attend some of the future Gung Haggis Fat Choy events.
Next up was a man in a kilt. Ian Cook (from Whistler) was born in
Scotland, and he told a wonderful tale of how the kilt was invented,
and how it involved an old woman named Agnes and three babies born at
the same time – all with red hair, and each named Angus. But
before he started, Ian told some rebuttals to the quesiton “What is
worn beneath the kilt?”
“Nothing is worn beneath the kilt….. everything is in perfect working condition!”
This topic had been raised because at the end of my performance, I had
been asked by a comely Asian-Canadian lass, “For the benefit of the
lassies, what does a multicultural Asian Canadian man, like yourself,
wear beneath the kilt?”
“The proper answer to your question, is that the knowledge of what
is worn beneath my kilt is the sole privilege of my girlfriend.”
The evening closed with a story about the Great Wall of China, told by
Leilani Harmon, who shared that she has Chinese, British and some
German bloodlines. We had a nice chat that included her young
son, and I invited them to some of the future Gung Haggis Fat Choy
events and to meet our multi-racial writers of Asian Canadian Writers'
Workshop and Ricepaper magazine.
It was a fun evening. I will go again. I will recommend it to
friends. Next month's Cric? Crac! will honour Black History Month.
Below are links to the cd created by
the Vancouver Society of Storytelling. It's a very cool cd.
My friends Yukiko Tosa (Children's librarian at Vancouver's Central Branch Library), Andre Thibault and Qiu Xia He (Silk Road Music) are all involved on the project.