If you didn’t walk through these doors on Monday evening and peek in the kitchen of Four Seas Chinese restaurant in Seattle, you would have missed Maxine Chan, a food anthropologist, stand next to a huge pot of soup with dried Chinese greens.

She called the soothing soup with origins from the Taishan – or Toisan – area of China’s Guangdong province a ”low and slow” dish. The recipe made its way to the United States.

You also would have missed her flash a big grin, as she prepared to serve about 90 people nine Toisanese dishes that were full of soul and had stories as part of, yes, the 2010 Chinese Heritage Tour of the American West.

She arrived early and chatted with friends. Then, she popped in the back to check the recipes she created. She had worked with the Four Seas cooks to perfect each dish – to bring out the genuine flavors of each one and to her satisfaction as a child of a restaurant owner.

She had taste tests with the cooks. She talked with them in the Toisan dialect as she made her rounds. She took a spoon to sample stewed pigs feet that were served later with bean curd skin and peanuts.

On Monday, she stressed how Chinese immigrants to the American West typically couldn’t afford to waste any part of an animal.

“I want more flavor,” she said after tasting it.

There is nothing like watching a chef in the kitchen.

Later, she explained to the dinner guests that she served the ”low and slow” soup with dried Chinese greens because it was a dish that Chinese pionners likely would have eaten in mountainous mining towns in the American West.

“The soup lubricates your lungs,” she said. “They would make soups that were tonics.”

There is something to be said about being in a Chinese kitchen – the largeness of it all, the feeding of groups of hungry people and the big, black woks which can get flames higher and hotter than you can do so at your house.

The evening’s dinner could not have been possible without the help of three of the restaurant’s cooks. Below – and written with surname first – are Liao Xue, the woman in the back, Cai Zhi, the man in the front, and Li Rung, the man to the right.

Here is another photograph of the cooks who helped with the Chinese Heritage Tour kick-off meal of 2010.