An Ex­trav­a­gant Open-air Ban­quet


Special Focus - - Contents - Liang Wen­dao 梁文道

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)

By Liang Wen­dao

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