Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The Original Nanjing Normals

 As we all get more entrenched into our own lives with increased socialbility, the weekends are less likely to include every FORD co-worker who hit the Good Earth of mainland Nanjing, China in March, April or May 2011.  Afterall, it's been over 6 months, we're settling in and moving forward.  Everyone has taken more than a trip or two without each other.  No need to hang on to a well-placed knot on the same rope as we toddle forward through town. We're "SO BIG" now.

I'm referring to the original "Normals" - the 8 of us who are "Embracing the New Normal in Nanjing."  A healthy, natural progression is for us to move ahead. Everyone's friend and acquaintance circle has enlarged.  Everyone's Southeast Asia travel has increased and overnight guests from the USA have been welcomed.  So the weekends are BUSY.
With that said, I schemed that having folks over for a mid-week meal would allow everyone to stay connected and not encompass a busy weekend night. The plan was set, "Tuesday, 6:00 pm, on the way home from work, stop over to unwind with a beer or glass of wine and enjoy a home-cooked supper."  This would enable those in attendance to decompress before heading home for the common occurence and inevitability of a conference call or two with the other side of the world. (We are now 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.)

The invite floated through cyber-space and nine folks replied with "In!"   Sadly, not  everyone was in town or available, but nine was a great number around our November table.

I planned a homey-menu, made a shopping list and set out on Tuesday morning for the freshest food selection. Super markets seem much less daunting these days and I had a cart-pusher helpmate in Brad who was visiting from Detroit and was going to spend the day with me.  The produce and meat bins are always remarkably eye-catching to newbies and take some getting used to.  There are stacks of raw this and that piled atop ice chips and  some questionable metal tongs to grab your selection. 
I use the hand in a plastic bag method, to select the chicken breasts I want.  This puzzles the spectators  and helpful meat department employees who insist on showing me 'how to do this correctly with the tongs." And yes, I have pushed one away when she tried to force the tongs into my hands as I went about the less bacteria laden method I was attempting. ( See the "SO BIG" quote above.) 

With clanking wine bottles and our catch of the day, Brad and I went home where I scrubbed the ba-jeezus out of the chicken breasts and vegetables.  Kim arrived to meet Brad and visit. The plan was to prep and chop and then head downtown for lunch.  I plopped the chicken in Angie's borrowed crockpot , added the ingredients for *Cranberry Chicken*, plugged the 110 volt crockpot into the 220 volt transformer and flicked the switch to LOW. 

"Six hours on low...good to go," I chanted. And off we went to lunch.

"It should smell really good when we walk back in here this afternoon," said Kim.

"Gosh, I hope so," I replied, wondering how I would 'punt' if it wasn't so.

After lunch at Pho Saigon, a Vietnamese Restaurant, and a shopping excursion we returned to our place to a saucy fragrant smell. *Cranberry Chicken!*  From the audible gurgling sauce there was NO doubt that the chicken was well-cooked and it was only 4:00 pm. 

"I'd say, let's turn it down, but it's already on Low...hmmmmmmmm, I said."

And then Kim made a discovery:

The cord coming out of the crockpot had MELTED directly to the wasn't going to budge and we were NOT going to try. It looked dangerous!  In addition the two side handles had melted and slid down into blobs like Dumbo's ears.  I quickly flipped the switch to OFF and watched the needle on the transformer dive left indicating it was done "transforming." 

The next conversations are kind of a blur and I can't tell you which one of the three of us said the following but this is what the fly on the wall heard:

"Gee, you are so fortunate that the entire Villa didn't go up in smoke!"

"Wow, I bet it was cooked within an HOUR!"

"Do you have renter's insurance on this place?"

"How are we going to keep this on LOW for the next 2.5 hours before everyone arrives?"

"Holy Cranberries, Batman!"

"I thought you made this in the crock-pot before?"

"The Big Guy is gonna flip, he is not a crock-pot fan for this very reason."

"Oh my G*d, I wanna die."     (can you pick out my voice among these quotes?)

Then Kim made another discovery:

"Oh Look! You plugged the 110 volt cord into the transformer where it said 220 volts!"

Puzzled by her discovery I replied,"Yes, because I wanted the 110 volt to become 220 volts, didn't I?"

Okay, so there was laughter and embarassment and a whole lot of chiding and blonde jokes that ensued over the next few hours (and days.) Kim and Brad convinced me NOT to get rid of the evidence but to leave it as a fun topic of conversation for mealtime. Naturally, they were the first to show it to everyone who arrived...kinda like the sibling who can't wait to tattle on what Little Miss Perfect did today....

The chicken was still tasty although it was WAY more DONE then it should have been.The hungries who arrived ate every morsel.  There were dishes piled high in my little kitchen by 8:30 pm.  I was happy, my guests were happy, albeit the crock-pot was 'toast' and will be picked up curbside by someone as scrap metal, but let's remember that I didn't burn down the entire villa and I learned something about transforming 110 voltage to 220 voltage - all positives!

My mission was accomplished in spite of a powerful mis-hap. We  provided food, fellowship and laughter to those who joined us for Tuesday's meal.

And just like any meal for a crowd it was over way too fast. 

But I smiled within and without as friends toddled out the door and out into a November Nanjing evening. 

It seemed that each guest left full and happy to have spent more time together

in this place,

on this continent,

in our home away from home.

Yes, our Normal has significantly changed over the past several months

 but we're still in this together...
And for that I am very grateful... 

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Thanks for reading,


*Cranberry Chicken*

  •  6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
           Half package of (1 ounce) packages dry onion soup mix
           1 (16 ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce
           1 cup Catalina/Russian dressing 
            OR if you live in China -  1 cup Catsup with 2 t. worcestershire sauce


  1. Place the chicken breasts in a glass or stoneware baking dish.
  2. Stir the onion soup mix, cranberry sauce, and Catalina dressing together in a bowl until well blended. Pour over the chicken breasts. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 8 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  4. Remove plastic wrap from the baking dish, and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
  5. Bake chicken in preheated oven until top is bubbly and slightly browned, about 1 hour and 15 minutes or longer if you like a thicker sauce.   
  6. Try it in a Crock-pot for 5-6 hours if you DARE!  :0*         

Suggestions:  Serve with Mashed Potatoes or Rice or Stove-Top Stuffing

1 comment:

Becca said...

I did a little crock pot cooking yesterday, and was gone all day while some very tast turkey soup was cooking. I don't use crock pots all that much, and did occasionally have a tiny tinge of concern, especially since it was in my son's house! So when I read about the cord melting, I thought, "See, those things can be dangerous!"

I was glad to hear it wasn't a product malfunction after all.

That sounds exactly like something I would do, by the way.

Your dinner party sounds like great fun. What a nice bunch of normals you have over there!