Near the end of a banquet put on by the School of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai, this desert-like dish was served up for our own Institute for Cross-Cultural Management. The dish is based on traditional Chinese calligraphy, in which ink blocks (left) are ground with water to make black ink, which is written with brushes on paper (northeast of the ink blocks). Every part of this concoction is edible except for the bamboo brush handles. In this dish, the Chinese respect, indeed obsession, with the written word, artistically rendered, meets the Chinese obsession (respect, too) for the creation of elegant and delicious foods. While the preparation and sharing of food is probably intrinsic to all cultures, I know of no other culture that has rendered food into such an art, and that continues to invent new dishes and presentations at such a pace. When, exactly, is that last time you saw a dish that was really new and innovative on an American restaurant menu?
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