Letters from the dorm: Mix of soup and friendship

Letters from the dorm: Mix of soup and friendship

When you're "in the bleak midwinter", nothing beats a bowl of sizzling hot Cantonese double-boiled soup.

Not very long ago, I stood in the kitchen of my student accommodation in Durham, wearing an apron, holding a rack of spare ribs in one hand, chopped carrots and tomatoes in the other, determined to discern the secrets behind cooking the delicious borscht I knew in Hong Kong.

Little did I know such humble beginnings would transform into something quite extraordinary.

Between lectures each day, I would be chopping the ingredients which I would subsequently dump into my giant soup pot. During lectures, I would be thinking what soup I should experiment with next. While I was supposed to be making lecture notes, I would be busy compiling my shopping list. It was as if soups took over my life, just like an addiction.

I tried making almost every kind of Cantonese soup that was feasible given limited access to Chinese ingredients here. To mention a few, papaya-fish soup, oxtail soup, apple-pear soup started to appear on our dinner table each night. For each attempt, successful or not, my loyal housemates demonstrated their unfaltering support by consuming it all for me. Constructive criticism inspired improvement, and rave reviews spurred on my soup-making zeal. It was satisfying.

Then I began inviting friends over for dinner, each time highlighting the fact that I have double-boiled soup to offer. Quite significantly, I went on to set up an informal group, which I labelled the Soup Appreciation Club (SAC). It is open to my friends and, of course, to all devout soup eaters.

Each time I make soup, I initiate a gathering by posting on our SAC Facebook group page, notifying everyone which type of soup was on offer. Turnout is always high. Through these SAC gatherings, I have made introductions and facilitated friendships between people who had never met before.

Now, with more than 30SAC members, I finally understand that being an accomplished cook can make you very popular. And worry not, I have not forgotten about my studies. I get the work done while my soup simmers away ...

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