An Extravagant Open-air Banquet
There is a family in Beijing with such an enormous demand for beer that one beer brand wants to be their exclusive supplier. According to one of their housekeepers, five kilos of meat and five kilos of fish are barely enough for their daily consumption.
This is the family of Huang Ke, also known as “Lord Mengchang of modern society.” He has often been invited to appear as a guest on TV shows and is the target of various media reports. His fame comes from the open-air banquets held in his home every day. Starting around 5 or 6 p.m. in the afternoon until midnight, his “friends” go in and out of his home in an endless stream. When they arrive, they show themselves to their seats as if it was their own place. Tablecloths are always on the tables and dishes are constantly arriving from the kitchen.
Interestingly though, Huang Ke is not acquainted with all of them, as some guests are brought by his friends, and some of whom show up by themselves after hearing about him through his friends, and some are purely attracted to his fame and the desire to make friends with him. Huang Ke doesn’t mind it at all, and he treats them equally and welcomes them with open arms, as he believes that whoever comes is a guest.
The guests often behave as if they were the host—they not only indulge in extravagant eating and drinking, but even flick through Huang Ke’s book and CD collections at will. If the background music is not to their taste, they would take the initiative to change the song. They usually chat over drinks, so it’s common to end up leaving drunk. If needed, they can stay overnight at Huang Ke’s place and leave the next morning when they sober up. Huang Ke says, “It’s not an issue. I’d like to make my guests feel like home.”
I remember that the first time I went to his home, I made a spectacle of myself, as I asked how much
everyone got charged. My question made the whole room roar with laughter, with people sputtering, cups banging on the table and hands clapping. As I see it, such a banquet must feature some secret family recipes that usually cost an arm and a leg. Yet, to my surprise, Huang Ke didn’t care about money at all, and he said, “Why would I charge friends whom I invited to dine in my home? That’s funny. Well, how about this? Next time, you may bring some materials and make some Cantonese dishes for us.”
Sometimes, a few guests roll up their sleeves to cook themselves and compare notes with each other. But generally speaking, this would rarely happen, as the Sichuan dishes served in Huang Ke’s home is extraordinarily delicious, and you won’t find them elsewhere. In particular, one dish called “Huang Clan’s Beef” stands out among others, which is well known by people near and far. Another dish called “Mao Xue Wang” (duck blood in hot chili sauce) is also a must try, and some gourmets even rate it as the best Sichuan dish in Beijing. Yet, Huang Ke seems to think otherwise, who often says, “Spicy taste is the essence of Sichuan cuisine, and spiciness can be the perfect cover for any distasteful food. The reason for Sichuan dishes to prevail is actually due to the bad quality of the food materials nowadays.” From his words, we can see he really understands Sichuan food, and he could serve authentic Sichuan cuisine in his home.
Rather than being rich and powerful, he is just an ordinary businessman, who lives in a simple house that is plainly furnished. Entertaining friends is just his joy in life, and exactly as some are fond of collecting antiques, he is fond of “collecting friends.” Among his friends are all walks of life, with scholars and artists are in the majority, and quite a few businessmen and politicians as well. Talking with them is like reading a book that can open the mind.
Huang Ke loves to make friends, to gain knowledge, and to see the diversity of the world. In fact, the open-air banquets that he holds are a gateway to know the world without leaving home. Moreover, he keeps a calm and peaceful mind to the affairs of human life.
Serving so many friends and strangers every night, the two big dining tables are like a crossroads where destiny brings people together. After all, these people are merely transient guests in each other’s life. Therefore, Huang Ke always claims himself to be a guest as well.
(From TheTastesofLife , Guangxi Normal University Press.Translation : Zhu Yaguang)