Sunday, November 13, 2005

Del Bao

Del discovered Hom Bao in Seattle's International District when he attended U. W. in the late forties. He found them no harder to eat than a bear finds honey difficult to swallow. He was almost as avid.

Once he visited San Francisco's China town. In a side street he discovered a shop of modest size. It was fitted out like a bakery with glass fronted display cases down the middle of the long room. Each case had many shelves. On each shelf were several full sheet trays. Each tray was covered in what Del saw as "Hom Bao!" When the proprietress emerged from the work room behind, Del said: "I want some Hom Bao."

"No Hom Bao." She replied.

Del looked at her. Then he looked at the serried ranks of trays filled with beautiful white pillows of steamed or baked bread. Then he looked back at her as if she had three heads and commanded: "Give me Hom Bao!"

"No Hom Bao." She insisted.

Fortunately for San Francisco's finest, a fracas was prevented by the arrival of a well dressed Chinese woman.

Del turned to her to ask: "Do you speak English?"

"Yes," she replied.

"Do you speak Chinese?" He querried.

This gave the woman pause. "Yes," she said.

"Then would you please explain to her that I want to buy some of her Hom Bao?"

The woman made a brief querry in Chinese.

The proprietoress made a voluable reply in a full panoply of gestures.

The woman made many vocables that appeared to indicate comprehension. Then she turned to Del and explained: "She asks me to tell you that she has many kinds of buns. There are beef buns, barbequed pork buns, vegetarian buns, chicken buns, sweet bean paste buns, curry buns and many others. But at the moment she is out of plain pork, or Hom, buns. So there are many kinds of Bao before you, but no Hom Bao."

Del thanked the woman for her translation, and apologized to the proprieteress for his gruffness and ordered a half dozen of each of her Bao.

His culinary world, already vast, became yet larger, while his Chinese vocabulary shrank, but only slightly.


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