Serious Eating

The dinner at the Imperial Palace and its host were wonderful. From shark-fin soup and shrimp appetizers to a spicy eggplant entrée; delicious duck dishes and meats and vegetables sweet, sour and savory; there was something for everyone no matter how picky the palate. And learning more about Janet Lu—a mainstay at Cochrane-Woods Library for 30 years—was just as enjoyable as the food.

Lu was born in Shanghai and moved to Lincoln in 1968. She began her work at Nebraska Wesleyan 11 years later and has always been fascinated by the way sharing a meal promotes intercultural interaction. She confirms that no matter who you are, no matter what your usual diet may be, you have eating in common with everyone. The language of food is easily translated, and eating together is arguably the most ancient of exchanges between cultures.

“It’s the most fun way to get to know people,” Lu said of social dining, an extension of her native Chinese custom of family meals. “In China, food and eating represent the family,” Lu stated. “When times are tough, when people are poor, mealtime is always a happy occasion.” It’s where a family can come together and celebrate what they have—what they are—which is, in simplest terms, each other.