While there are many steps involved before the wheels are in motion, honestly, my volunteering efforts with fellow parents to collaborate on fundraising events are among my most memorable experiences as a mom of four school-aged kids. And, when all is said and done—when vendors have been contacted, donations have been received, parent volunteers are performing their tasks, and lively chatter fills the venue—it’s all worth it. We all know that our collective work is helping to raise much-needed monies for our kids.
While I’ve reduced the number of leadership roles for which I volunteer so I could focus on my writing/editing career, it’s still such a worthwhile endeavor to participate in some way. This time around, I contributed by using my writing and promotional skills for various events throughout the year. So, while I can’t lay claim to having taken on another co-chairing position or heading a committee this year, it’s rewarding to purchase tickets, and support the events by attending the functions.
- On Saturday, May 19, 2012, one of my daughter’s school and another local public school held a community-wide event that featured delicious four-ounce samples of appetizers, entrees or desserts from over 70 top-notch restaurants in Tribeca, an area rich in history within the food industry.
- As always, the annual Taste of Tribeca was a culinary success. Not only did it help bring in some money, but hopefully through the event, some attendees were introduced to new restaurants that they’ll soon visit.
Here’s a short clip of one of the musical numbers that added to the relaxed character of the Taste of Tribeca (compliments of City Winery in SoHo).
- And the previous evening, Friday, May 18, 2012, another daughter’s school held its 10th Annual Benefit Banquet. Since this particular school has a predominantly Asian population—mostly, kids of Chinese descent, hints of the Southeast Asian country’s cultural heritage characterized the event.
The 100-plus families whose children performed dance routines, or instrumental and choral numbers throughout the evening, enjoyed a ten-course meal—similar in quantity and types served in a traditional Chinese wedding banquet.
For the evening, we sat in our table for 10, actively (and gladly) participating in the banquet—a delicious way to raise funds.
And afterwards, since I’m always curious about other cultures and customs, I asked around and conducted some research about the symbolism behind the 10-course meal that we experienced.
The Ten Courses…
- Cold Appetizer – Five items usually comprise this plate—jelly fish, bean curd, five-spice beef shank, seaweed and pork slices.
- Soup – In China, this soup is shark fin with chicken or crab. I was told that ours was made with an alternate to shark fin, which is pricey. (Price cost concerns is understandable since it’s a school fundraiser, after all. For ecological reasons, I’m glad it wasn’t shark fin.)
- Prawns with Honey Glazed Walnuts – Prawns signify liveliness and the honey-glazed walnuts are for happiness. This course was very tasty—and made me very happy, indeed.
- Chicken & Beef with Celery – Tender slices of sautéed beef and chicken with celery and carrots.
- Tender Beef – This course comprised of a platter of succulent and tender beef with onions.
- Fish – Delicious fried filets of fish with crispy breading. Fish represents prosperity.
- Whole Chicken – To represent togetherness and completeness, chicken is served whole, which includes its head. Our chicken course was fried with garlic with hints of ground ginger.
- Mushrooms and Vegetables – This platter of vegetables, including greens, signifies a family’s close ties.
- Fried Rice – By the time our platter of shrimp fried rice with vegetables was placed on our table, we were already stuffed. You’ill most likely not need more than a small quantity, which can be put in the small bowls on your table.
- Noodles – A platter of Lo Mein was our last entrée served. Again, we were too full to try more than a small amount.
- Diets. When attending a Chinese banquet, don’t worry about your diet. You’re expected to eat, and according to their cultural beliefs, it’d be considered an offense not to eat well during the banquet.
- Portion Control. You’re in for a sumptuous treat at a banquet. And while you’re encouraged to eat well, it’s considered offensive to take more than your fair share. So small portions so as not to take away from your tablemates are best.
- Courses. Entrees are served at specific points, and you should wait for each course to be served accordingly. Apparently this means that while rice is a staple in China, and normally accompanies meals at the beginning—at a banquet, it’s served last or towards the end. Asking for it ahead of time would be translated to mean that not enough food has been provided.
- Leftovers. Hearty eating is encouraged. And, you can ask the wait staff for takeout containers to transport your own portions home. However, keep mind that it’s okay to leave some food at your table. The leftovers indicate that enough food was served, meaning everyone is leaving the banquet full and satisfied.
I’d say that this particular advice depends largely on the other table guests and the event. At my table, we were asked to take whatever we wanted home to avoid wasting food. As my husband and I scanned the other tables, we noticed there were hardly any leftovers and the waiters were busily scooping food into containers.
And as a last morsel of tidbit, the next time you’re attending a Chinese banquet, remember that unlike the French who savor every bite, prolonging their meals, a Chinese banquet entails some quick eating. Pace yourself as you enjoy the entrees, but keep in mind that since there are 10 courses to be served, the wait staff will take platters of food away, quicker than you may expect. Our waiter was quite professional and polite—always happy to scoop the leftovers onto our plates or inside our foam takeout containers.