Making Dumplings(包饺子)

Jack loves dumplings, and Sophia W. and I, though perhaps not quite as enthusiastically, do too. Early in the semester, we asked our Chinese teacher, Yingying, if we could make Chinese food for dinner one Saturday night. (Students cook both Saturday for dinner and Sunday for brunch so that the kitchen crew can have the weekend off.) Upon her agreement, we set to work planning our recipes and contacting the weekend duty team. It took us almost a month before we were ready, and even then, the Saturday before Thanksgiving came far too quick.

We were unimaginably anxious the day of. I remember Yingying telling me that she was up at 3 am wondering whether we would be able to make enough dumplings with the limited time restraints, and all of us were frightened at the prospect of making our own wrappers. Luckily, our fears were unfounded; by the time we got back from the beach trip that morning, Yingying had already made the dough, and we would quickly realize that our Chinese teacher was being modest when she said she was “good” at making dumplings.

Once back at Chewonki from the beach, we hurried into the kitchen only to be ushered out by Yingying; despite our insistence that we help her out, she refused our offer and forced us to eat lunch with the rest of our classmates before finally letting us join her in the kitchen at 12:40 in the afternoon. Throughout the day, volunteers came and went on a 1-hour rotation (we had posted a sign up sheet for people who wanted to help us cook), yet it still took us almost 6 hours, even with Yingying’s premade dough and the assistance of over a dozen helpers, to make all 500 dumplings, fried rice, potato salad, and bubble tea.

What a relief that Megan Phillips, the farm manager, stopped by to help us out, that Kyra cooked all 6 hours despite not having to, that Maya signed up for the one time slot that nobody else did, and that Will, one of the teaching fellows, did the menial work of cleaning all the bowls and knives we used. It was one of the many times I’ve appreciated how close knit the Chewonki community is — so many people joined together to lend their hand for the purpose of making something special (and helping Jack, Sophia, and I get extra credit for Chinese class).

Besides a minor burn on my finger and 6 hours spent without ever leaving the kitchen, that day was one of the best I’ve had here. We blasted Chinese songs as people filtered in, Emily and Sophia dimmed the lights and hung lanterns on the ceiling, and I think most, if not everyone, had a great time. Sometimes it pays off to offhandedly mention, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a dumpling night?”

Isaac Loh, Collegiate School, New York, NY

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