Clean = Wet = Clean

Note the following observations:

1. The floors of kitchens and bathrooms are generally hard tile with drains scattered throughout. People do not wear their shoes in the home, instead wearing slippers. The bathroom has its own plastic flip-flops. So to use the bathroom, you step out of your inside slippers and into the bathroom footwear. Upon leaving the bathroom, you switch back. You do this because the bathroom floor is generally quite wet. So is the kitchen floor, but people tend to stay out of the kitchen unless they are cooking. The kitchen generally has a door that closes it off from the rest of the apartment (no matter how small the place is).

2. Many public restrooms have a full-time attendant. The attendant enters the stall once you are finished. She generally has a set of giant wooden tongs with which she picks up any debris from the floor. She also has a wet mop that she uses to wipe the floor of the stall (remember, Asian toilets are basically ridged footrests on either side of a basin and, thus, part of the floor that gets mopped). Sinks generally are without paper towels and are quite wet from all the dripping wet hands. The floor around the sink is wet too. The bathroom attendant wipes the floor around the sinks with the same mop. The sinks just seem to stay wet.

3. Here in our complex, the cleaning staff mop at the floors, walkways and hallways each day (rain or shine). They use the same mop and water for the whole operation. Very frequently (especially from January to April) the surfaces never dry. There is no sweeping. Just mopping.

4. When eating out in this part of China, you start the meal by rinsing your dishes, chopsticks, etc, with either boiling water or the first pot of tea. The server brings a glass bowl and sets it in the middle of the table for you to dump the rinsing water in. When everyone has cleaned their plates, the server takes the bowl away and serves everyone a second glass of tea (or hot water). Obviously, your bowl and plate generally stay a bit wet.

5. One of my favorite dim sum dishes is jidan (egg) fen (cellophane noodle). There is a sink with a running tap. 2 linen-looking cloths float in the water in the sink. Next to the sink there is a steaming table which consists of 2 flat metal trays each about the size of 3 cookie sheets with many holes about the size of a quarter. The trays rest over a tub of boiling water. You order your noodles and the cook grabs a cloth out of the sink and lays it out over half of one of the trays (you could get a double but that is a lot of food). On his left is a big vat of milky white liquid – bean starch and water. He take a small ladle full of the liquid and pours it on the cloth. Then he grabs an egg, cracks it onto the batter, and uses his hand to spread it out. He puts his hands briefly under the tap and then take a handful of chopped scallions and a couple of leaves of romaine lettuce and lays them, end to end, on top. He then covers the whole thing for about 2 minutes. At this point, he brushes some oil on a cutting board, uncovers the noodles and flips the cloth onto the cutting board. Using a plastic scraping tool he scrapes the noodle onto the cutting board and tosses the cloth back in the sink until the next order. This type of fen is one large flat noodle about the size of a cookie sheet with egg and stuff stuck to it. He flips it over upon itself a few times, cuts it into 3 pieces, and puts it on a small oval plate. He then rinses his hands under the tap and pulls out the cloth for the next order.

6. In general Chinese cooking is very wet. Steamed and boiled food is usually prepared in giant vats of boiling water or steamers with inset sinks and holding containers for broths,etc, on either side of the boiling water. Even wok-frying generally includes frequent water from an adjacent running sink which the cook uses to add water (and starch) to create a sauce, get a ladle full of water to clean the wok between orders, or rinse his hands which stay wet as he continues to work.

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