Heart of the City Festival: Stories of Chinese food from “Eating Stories” read at Chinese Benevolent Association historical building

The Heart of the City Festival celebrates Chinese food and Chinese buildings – with stories of pioneers and their descendants


Sunday November 2, 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, 108 E. Pender 3rd floor

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Readings from the book “Eating Stories: A Chinese Canadian & Aboriginal Potluck” were featured at the at the Chinese
Benevolent Association on Sunday.  The book was published by the Chinese Canadian Historical Society last year and quickly sold out its first printing.  I was part of the writing workshops that helped to create this anthology of stories about food, culture and history.

Scheduled to read were moderator George Jung, Dan Seto, Larry Wong and Bob Sung. Also scheduled was Shirley Chan, but she asked me to fill in for her late Saturday…. so I was a surprise reader.

The reading started off with a welcome and an historical explanation of the Chinatown heritage buildings such as the Chinese Benevolent Association, and how the many clan associations served to help the pioneer Chinese in Vancouver and Canada.

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Dan Seto was the first reader.  He read his short story “Fong Luen Tong New Year Banquet” about the society set up for people with the names “Seto” or “Sit.”

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Bob Sung read second.  He read the story “A Lesson in Communication” about trying to impress a White Girl on a date in a Chinese restaurant, and how he kept mispronouncing the Chinese words so much that the waiter was laughing at him.

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Larry Wong read third.  He read the story “Evening With Pop (1949)” about how his father would always bring food home late at night to share with him and his sister.

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I read fourth.  I explained that my contributions were a blend of pictures and their descriptions.  The first picture I showed was me with my grandmother and girlfriend at Mother's Day 2007.

The second picture was me when I was 16 years old, holding two freshly caught salmon.  I explained how my mother's favorite way to cook fish was steamed with hot oil.

The third picture was the first picture ever taken of me wearing a kilt, back in 1993.  I was a tour guide at Simon Fraser University, and volunteers were needed to help with the university's traditional Robbie Burns ceremony.  This was when I first coined the phrase “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.”

The final picture was taken at the 2005 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner with me holding a large haggis on a plate, while then Mayor Larry Campbell stabbed it with a knife.  I explained the origins of the dinner, and how it grew into a famous mix of cultural fusion of Chinese and Scottish food and culture.

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George Jung was the final reader.  George read his story “Applesauce” which described how 102 year old Mrs. Der had climbed two steep flights of stairs to demand “Where is the money, the frefund for the head tax that my husband paid?”  He describes how Mrs. Der met Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and how the redress ex-gratia payment arrived too late after she dies.

 I counted 18
current and past Gung Haggis paddlers + Hillary's mom – in the audience
– enough for a dragon boat team in competition! and 1/3 of the audience
..  Former paddler Elwin Xie had earlier in the day conducted his
Chinese Laundry Boy tour of Chinatown for the Heart of the City

I acknowledged Savanah Walling in the audience – she is the
co-founder of the Heart of the City Festival.  I met her in April when
we both received the BC Community Achievement Award.

Sunday Night, CCHS writer Shirley Chan gave a reading of some of her
writings from the Eating Stories book, following the presentation of
the documentary Mary Lee Chan Takes on City Hall.  The film is about
how Shirley's mother helped to stop the demolition of Strathcona
neighborhood for freeway development.  Shirley's daughter Emma paddled
on the Gung Haggis dragon boat team last summer.

See more pictures at:

Heart of the City Festival: Eating Stories at CBA historical building

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