The current exhibition at the Asia Society is The Artful Recluse, which I visited with some Vassar classmates. It was way beyond an ordinary viewing as one classmate owns several items in the exhibit and provided a very informative commentary on all the material. The items on view include hanging and hand scrolls, a few breathtaking pots, and poems written in exquisite calligraphy
Being a recluse in seventeenth century China wasn’t simple.
Many factors, including weird weather, uprisings, highly corrupt eunuchs at court and threats to the national border led to the collapse of the Ming dynasty. (Is it only me who finds echoes of our society minus the eunuchs?) Then came the nasty Manchus who established the Qing dynasty. As a result of the upheaval, many of China’s highly educated elite, known as the literati, highly accomplished poets, calligraphers and painters, felt threatened. As a result, some took –literally—to the hills. One painter/recluse went to such extremes that during the twenty years when his family was dying of starvation he refused to leave his house.
I would have made a terrible recluse as the very idea of living alone in the mountains gives me a panic attack. True, the recluses described in the exhibition were often surrounded by family and/or servants so their every need was met. I am simply not that good a loner.
Afterwards, we had lunch in the Asia Society’s lovely Garden Court Café where the food is as mannered as the works of art and each plate is beautifully composed. Even the tea, be it hot or iced, is a far cry from English Breakfast (or, my house blend, Lipton.) If you need a dash of retail therapy, the Asia Store has gorgeous jackets and scarves, terrific jewelry and an impressive array of books.
This recipe is a million miles from anything at the Garden Court Café, as it’s closer
to what’s served in an average Chinese restaurant. However, it’s easy and very
forgiving, allowing you to use any veggies you like. Even if you stick to broccoli
and carrots the end game will be delicious. And you don’t have to eat it alone,
Vegetable Stir Fry
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cloves garlic, crushed (or use a garlic press for a more subtle taste)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger root,
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small head broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 cup snow peas cut in halves
3/4 cups julienned carrots
1/2 cup halved green beans
2 T soy sauce (use light soy if you prefer)
2 1/2 T water
1/4 finely chopped onion
1/4 T salt (taste before serving and add more if needed)
In a large bowl, blend cornstarch, garlic, 1 teaspoon ginger, and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until cornstarch is dissolved. Mix in broccoli, snow peas, carrots, and green beans, tossing to lightly coat.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Cook vegetables in oil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Stir in soy sauce and water. Mix in onion, salt, and remaining 1 teaspoon ginger. Cook until vegetables are tender but still crisp.