A Story by Ryan Walsh

Lessons wrapped up in 大饼鸡蛋

posted on May 19th, 2014   1733 views

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            There were many places to get 大饼鸡蛋 on the campus of Nankai University. Luckily, the best place was right behind the building where we foreigners were dragged through 听写 torture. Any failing test score could be assuaged by eating a doughy, eggy torpedo of goodness and increasing our blood lipid counts. Even more poignant to struggling students was the ego boost that accompanied the ability to learn, identify and pronounce the cut of chicken or chunk of fried goodness you wanted wrapped in your blanket of deliciousness. Oh, and add , too. Lots of . Real life application of 初级 vocabulary sets didn’t get any more delicious than this.

            The food was great, but we simply marveled at industry. Our 大饼鸡蛋阿姨 was so awesome that Tianjin’s recent ordinances against street food vendors couldn’t put her out of business. All food vendors now needed to have a roof over their establishment? Very well! She will not only stay put, but she will also use her ludicrous profits to build a barely-passable roof over her stoves and freezers. Hordes of hungry students, each taking orders for himself and seven other roommates, would always line up through summer heat and winter wind. Fate demanded a supplier, and she was our messiah.

            In fact, even our graduate student teachers, soon to be set loose into a tight job market, were emboldened by the antics of this one lone street vendor. Ms. Li confided in me – “We can just become a 大饼鸡蛋阿姨. She is richer than we will ever be!” Indeed, many imaginary fortunes could be made and lost by discussing the manifestations of her entrepreneurial spirit. I can still remember a few Friday nights when my classmates and I discussed the fortunes to be made by somehow exporting the 大饼鸡蛋 model to college campuses across North America and Europe.

 

            Now, four years later, our 南开大饼鸡蛋阿姨’s example is still the measuring stick with which I instinctively judge street food vendors. I look for a story beyond the hot dog in New York, the tteokbokki in Seoul, or the takoyaki in Osaka. I still haven’t found a story quite comparable to hers. In a world that changes so drastically, we can rest assured that she will still be there, inspiring the next generation of Nankai students to see the possibility wrapped up in a flatbread and some rugged entrepreneurship.


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