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Picking Fights With New Friends

October 17, 2016

The Seventh Annual Tour de Donut was on Saturday, and it was a great day out. Holy cow, Saturday was gorgeous. It was a perfect day for driving around back roads through the countryside. If the leaves weren’t at peak, they couldn’t have been more than a day or two off.

Those who went on the tour already know the outcome. It was pretty much a slam dunk. Those who didn’t are going to have to wait another day for the official results. It’s not because I want to torture you, it’s just that my in-laws are visiting from Pennsylvania and I didn’t have time to go through all the scoresheets and give you the full analysis.

I do have a story from the tour, although it has nothing to do with donuts. Or fall. Or apples.

Actually, it’s all about a fight I had with a brand new friend I met on the tour. Who, I’m pretty sure, will still be friends with me after today. At least I hope so. But I’ve got to get this off of my chest.

Meet Christine K.

Funny story. Not only was she living in Beijing when I was visiting last year, but she was living around the corner from where I was staying. That meant my local neighborhood dumpling shop was her local neighborhood dumpling shop.

Except Christine objects to my calling it a dumpling shop, since it sells steamed buns. Or bao.

Steve N. was there. He can vouch for this. And I may blame the belly full of fat and sugar for my sluggish response in defending my position on the spot. But Steve too was a little taken aback by the lack of precision with my words. He’s come to expect me to care deeply about such things, and for good reason.

It’s not that Christine K. is wrong. The little corner stand on Fourth Ring Road by PKU absolutely sold bao. They were fantastic. On that point, I don’t think there’s disagreement.

But here’s my position.

Bao actually are dumplings. In fact, lots of things are dumplings. Ravioli are dumplings. Tamales are dumplings. Matzoh balls are dumplings. The list goes on and on. Dumplings are simply a category of food involving dough balls of various types.

So rice flour dough balls stuffed with meat or vegetables and steamed are dumplings. As are wheat flour dough balls filled with meat and boiled.

I do like to use words broadly. Ironically, that personal choice may have developed to avoid food fights. I’ll call a ramen place a noodle shop, lest one of my fussy friends insist that it’s not a “real” ramen joint. The same goes for pizza, and barbecue, and Italian food.

Or maybe it’s just a function of living the Capital Region too long where so many kinds of foods are brought together under a single kitchen.

Whatever the case, all I’m saying, is that I’m still right.

This is another iteration of the classic argument that not all rectangles are squares, but all squares are absolutely rectangles. You can argue the point that squares are special and deserve to be identified as such. But as soon as you declare something to be a square, some jerk is going to break out a ruler and a protractor and make sure your square is legit.

Yes, usually that jerk is me. But still, why put yourself through the aggravation. All rectangles are beautiful.

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