One of the things I noticed during my first few weeks in China is that Chinese people eat a lot of seeds. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds, seeds I don’t know the name of. When people gather for a meal, a banquet, tea or just plain talk, out comes a plate of dried seeds. Everyone digs in, cracking the seeds open and spitting the remains on the ground, on the table, even on each other. Sort of like “peanut night” taken to the extreme.
Now, I really appreciate it when a host provides peanuts. First, it is something I recognize and second, it seems like minimal work for a substantial reward. Watermelon seeds, on the other hand, are a real hassle. I haven’t yet mastered the art of eating these seeds without a rather long, involved process. I greatly admire my Chinese friends who can, crack, separate, swallow and spit using only teeth and tongue.
If you’ve never eaten a watermelon seed, here is the general idea: First, grasp the dried seed between thumb and forefinger. Second, place the small end of the seed vertically between your teeth. Third, apply slight pressure with your teeth until you hear it crack. A loud cracking sound is bad news, it means something else is going on… like maybe Chinese fireworks.
Next comes the part I have yet to master. At this point I show my standing as a novice by pulling the cracked seed out of my mouth and staring at it to see if there is anything worth the additional effort. Sometimes there is. From here on out it is all manual dexterity, something I am apparently lacking in.
Anyway, that is about it for now…