It came up naturally over dinner, or at least naturally to me. It started with a wonderful buffet with Liz at the U Garden that included General Tso’s Chicken, a spicy dish that has always intrigued me. I remembered a story that it was named for the General who defeated the Moslems in the 13th Century at the Western fringes of China – which was apparently completely wrong. A quick look at wikipedia shows that he was the general who defeated the Taiping Rebellion in China in the 1850s – with a little help from the British. The chicken dish? It was probably invented later by a refugee who spiced it with a sarcastic moniker to accent the chile pepper.
Aside from my being completely wrong about a tidbit of history, the story highlighted something that always fascinates me. Nearly everything in our world has a story hidden behind it somewhere – a tale of intrigue, suffering, triumph, and perhaps tragedy. It turns out that General Tso is even more interesting than I knew and perhaps might be the centerpiece of an excellent movie – one that explains a lot about China today. But as Liz and I kept talking and eating we came up with even more examples of great biographies that are never told. I’ll bet you have some, too.