Whenever it was my turn to pick dinner in Manila, I chose Din Tai Fung, because they have some of the best dumplings in the world, as confirmed by a Michelin star. These duplings, or xiao long bao, are a miracle of such wonder that they won their own hymn from NPR and also, you know, a thousand years of spreading devotion since their conception in Shanghai.
I remember having a long conversation with some of the other interns last year over some dumplings about whether or not there was such a thing as one dumpling in all the world that was better than all the others. I argued that there had to be, somewhere, one dumpling that was more perfectly made than any other. It might not last very long. It might never be recognized, but somewhere in the world, there exists the ideal bao, one dumpling that's at least better than all the others.
"But," someone said, "what if the best dumpling doesn't have as good of a soup mix as the second best?" Best gets broken down into elements. The skin, the meat, the soup, the cook time. And then, of course, each of these things can be further broken down. The softest pork, the most perfectly cooked, ect.
Is there a "best" of anything? Or is there only an infinity of categories in which an infinity of different things can be the best?
That can be a comforting though really. Nothing is lost if it's the best of something.
Last month, my family went on vacation through Spain, Italy and France, and it was definitively the best of the best at deepening our relationships. Madrid was lively, Venice intricate, and Nice calm, but I think it will be the ten straight days where we actually grew in our enjoyment of each other that sticks.
I don't know if there's really an explanation for this. My sister and I are old enough to have gown out of a number of our petty fights, my brother is old enough to keep up with the jokes, and I think we were all determined not to let conflict get in the way. It's a beautiful thing when resolutions succeed beyond all expectations.
Even the annoying parts of the trip, like driving through Italy in a car made for at least one less person than was present or the crushing masses that decided to visit Cinque Terre on the same day we did, will be funny because they didn't end as badly as they could have, I think.
And the most beautiful part about the categorizing is that this vacation gets to be the best in this category potentially forever. The next one can be the most we laughed or the holiday of the coolest sights. But this one is the best we've done at enjoying each other yet, and I couldn't have asked for much more.