How probable is this? Four people walk into a Chinese dumpling house; one decides to order dumplings for only himself and does not share his little morsels of yum with the others. No way, no how.
You can get better odds at the Wentworth Park dishlicker track everyday.
Indeed, dumplings seem to be mostly eaten in group settings and shared around. That would say they're communal and, yes, they partially are. Unlike the dishlickers, we're not "dog eat dog" or rather "dog eat dumpling".
But, that's not dumplings' whole story. For mine, dumplings are the delicate balance that is society and the constant trade-offs we make to find a way to live with each other and for each other.
Or, to put it a loved one's way: "It's amazing how we overcome the urge to garrotte each other on the subway eventhough some part of us wants to do just that!"
Look at the physical reality of dumpling-dom.
Like society, dumplings are together and dumplings are apart at the same time. They are served together on a plate or in a bowl, but are all individual food packets. Us? We need to live together and we need our individuality too.
Too many dumplings together is overcrowded and unsustainable; one dumpling on its own begs the question 'is something wrong?'. Us? We crowd ourselves as much as possible into cities and then we seek individual solitude - solitude that the majority often struggles to condone.
When we go out to eat dumplings, you see folks trying to strike that delicate balance between "us" and "me" in action. Yes, we share the servings before us between us. And, whether I like to admit it or not, the caveman in me looks to get his fair share. Dumplings are too good to resist and my inner Neanderthal wants to be ready for the long winter.
At the same time, my dumpling "better angel" or my karmically-inspired and enlightened dumpling self emerges. I make a trade-off. I want to make sure everybody else at the table has had as many as they want too because I love them. And, I practically know that without my others, without relationship, without the attempt at shared understanding, we are all but poorer.
That's why it's been wonderful to get your emails and Facebook posts on this Dumpling Quest. A Jersey friend reminding me of knishes served at baseball games. A sophisticated Sydney eastern suburbs type inquiring where the local Eastern Europeans go to get their "pirogy" fix in the western suburbs. A childhood mate sharing tales of his baba's best. Wonderful - and thank you.
And, today, a car-borne photo from Irene from New York City, our global capitol in all things including food vans. A photo of the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck bringing the quest to a street near you (if you happen to be in Manhattan). How cool is that.
If I ever have the chance to partake of that van's goodness, I'll order for all of us - and for me too. It's how we live with each other and ourselves.