Saturday, October 25, 2008

Red-faced over green 'pumpkin'

Mr. Machalek lives in Fresh Meadows, next door to a family of recent Chinese immigrants, and they and his family are friendly despite the language barrier.

One October, two or three years ago, the Chinese family gave the Machaleks a present from their backyard garden around the same time the Machaleks brought a pumpkin home to prepare for Halloween. “It looked exactly like a pumpkin except it was green. It was the same shape, same size as the pumpkin we brought home,” said Mr. Machalek.

The Tale of the Green Jack-o’-Lantern

So when the family decided to carve up their orange pumpkin for Halloween, they eyed the green cousin. “We carved that one up, too. We took out all the insides and carved a little mouth and eyes and nose,” Mr. Machalek said.

They put the two jack-o’-lanterns outside, in front of their home. It was a day or so before the Chinese neighbors saw this. “We saw them pointing at it and laughing. We didn’t understand, so we started laughing, too. We asked them what was happening and they said: ‘No. No. No. Food. Food. Food.’ ”

The son in the family, who spoke English, explained to the Machaleks that it was a winter melon, and that Chinese people used them to make soup. (The winter melon, know as donggua (冬瓜) in Mandarin, is actually not a melon, but a type of squash.)

“We were embarrassed,” Mr. Machalek said. “We couldn’t believe it. I was like, ‘Oh no, I hope we didn’t offend them.’ ” But they left their winter melon and the pumpkin jack-o’-lanterns outside.

“They haven’t given us another one since,” he said.



georgetheatheist said...

I love living next to the Chinese as well. About 10 years ago my Chinese home-owning neighbor in Woodside, an absentee landlord, rented his illegal basement apartment to a newly arrived immigrant from the Asian mainland. This guy started to hang skinned whole chickens out on the backyard clothesline to, I guess, dry out for some kind of culinary purpose and to sell to his fellow immigrants. It was clearly done to make a buck. There'd be about 15-20 birds hanging there. I called my neighbor up where he (still) lives in Litle Neck and said that this has got to stop. It clearly was unsanitary and definitely unaesthetic. This activity ceased. The "birdman" is no longer there. The Building Dept. fined the owner subsequently for the illegal basement conversion - all's well that ends well. Cluck-cluck.

Anonymous said...

Heartwarming tale Geroge. A true slice of modren Queens life.

Anonymous said...

We have the laundry neighbors - whom on busy days deciede to extend a pole into my backyard to hang more shirts. Perfectly logical after all my parc like backyard is a wasted space to them.
The bathroom situation must be tight there as well as the women squat and pee in the corner of the yard. The problem get's worse as the young children (boys) do the same against my fence. My parc yard now smells like a urinal.

Anonymous said...

We have perfectly normal Chinese people living next door to us. In fact, the husband-father is an architect, so his house looks even nicer than mine.

Anonymous said...

Slow news day, crappy?