MUSCATINE — A long way from home and family in the days immediately following the Chinese New Year celebration, Ye Changqing decided to bring a little bit of Hebei Province to Roger and Sarah Lande’s kitchen Wednesday night.
Ye, who is heading a delegation from Hebei Province that is commemorating the 30th anniversary of Hebei’s sister state relationship with Iowa, asked Albert Liu, director of Asian sales for Musco Lighting, to help prepare dumplings, the traditional way that families celebrate Chinese New Year.
Liu joined members of the Hebei Province delegation to show those invited to the Lande home just how the traditional dumplings are formed. He rose at 6 a.m. Wednesday to prepare the ingredients, which included fresh Iowa pork, ginger, green and yellow onions, Chinese cabbage, celery, cilantro — and a secret ingredient his mother taught him.
“She’s in heaven,” he said, “and she’s smiling today.”
Ye sweetened the deal for the crowd of about 40 people: Ten people received special candied dumplings. Those people will be lucky for the entire year, he said.
“Or it could be one guy who gets all 10,” he joked through Liu, who interpreted for Ye. “He will be very, very lucky.”
Wednesday’s dumpling diplomacy preceded a public reception for the delegation hosted by the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Muscatine History and Industry Center.
Today, the delegation was to meet at Muscatine Community College with education officials and business leaders for discussions on future exchanges and, perhaps, fledgling business partnerships.
Ye, the executive vice president of the Hebei People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, said he was honored to stand in the same spot where Xi Jinping, who is expected to be named China’s next president, stood almost exactly a year ago.
Ye noted he was in the same living room on Feb. 15, 2012 — only in “a dark corner” because all the cameras were busy that day with Xi, who first visited Muscatine in 1985 as an official with the Hebei Province.
As the dumplings took shape and were served, local officials discussed the importance of friendly gatherings such as Wednesday’s.
“This event is the way they should all be — casual and relaxed,” said Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins, who was part of a local delegation to China in November. “Our friends are here to teach us how to make dumplings, and the key term here is ‘friends.’”