There is a legend that developed around the period when Russia was the USSR and China was at its beginnings as a Communist state.
There once were three Russian sisters. They knew how to clean and take care of their households. But they did not know how to cook. The father believed that this was a skill that they would pick up over time. The father of his three daughters married them off to three men of the working class. The working class was esteemed at that period of time and so he believed he was doing the right thing. He believed that all three of his daughters would be well cared for and that they would live a great life, benefitting the Communist state and bringing forth many children into the world.
All three of the daughters lived in a close circumference to one another. They lived in the same district and would get together on weekends and go to church together. At first, all was well.
But over time the fact that they could not cook irritated their new husbands and so the seeds of discontent were sown. Every day that the men came back from working their laborious jobs, they would be greeted with a smile and a kiss. But they would not be greeted with anything more. All the food that was served to them was raw. Apples, porridge and cold coffee. This was the extent of the three sister’s culinary skills.
As the same meal was being served to them over and over again the husbands grew in anger. And then they began beating their wives. The wives, or the sisters grew bitter. For they had never practiced the art of making their way through the kitchen. One Sunday; on the day that they went to church. They all came together and came up with a plan.
That plan was that they would poison their husbands and leave for China where they would find a better life for themselves. They cooked the same staple meal of porridge, apples and cold coffee for their husbands; but this time laced it with a lethal dose of arsenic. The husbands came home and although they complained about the meal as they always did, they sat down at the dining table and consumed them. All three of them dropped dead and their bodies were left to rot on the floor of the households. The three sisters had already packed their belongings and prepared themselves. They left that night, never to return.
It was quite a voyage that the three sisters took. They travelled by train, horse and cart and all manner of different avenues of travel that existed. The journey there took them an entire month to complete.
One of the sisters had been in contact with a Russian businessman who lived and worked in China. She had expressed her issue and their need for work and accommodation when they arrived in China. The businessman, reluctant at first, agreed to help them. There was always need of women who were willing to work.
When they arrived in China, the great city of Shang Hai, they made contact with the Russian businessman. He set them up with accommodation and on the first night they rested peacefully. In the morning they had a meeting with the businessman.
“There are two types of women who can work and make their way in this world. Cooks and working girls. Now, you three have to decide now. Are you a working girl or are you a cook? And keep in mind, working girls get paid more than cooks.”
“What’s a working girl?” One of the sisters asked.
“A working girl,” the businessman explained, “is a woman who sells her body to the service of men in their lustful needs.”
The three sisters huddled together. They knew that they were not cooks, but they would rather be cooks than ‘working girls’. “We’re cooks.” All three of them replied simultaneously in response to the businessman’s proposition.
So the businessman told them that they had to prepare food in service of the people. The Russian sisters did not know what to cook and what to serve to the working people of the land.
So they decided that, because they were in China, they could cook just about anything. They could cook anything and call it a delicacy.
“I’m going to cook rice cakes.” One of the sisters decided.
“I’m going to cook chicken’s feet.” Another one stated.
“I’m going to cook to stomach rinds.” The final one conceived.
“Stomach rinds?!?” The other two sisters were shocked.
“Hey, we’re in China… They’ll eat just about anything here.” The sister responded.
So they prepared carts full of their delicacies and took them out to the streets. The Chinese people were hesitant at first. But they bought the delicacies from the three sisters. They did not sell well, but they sold enough that they could make a living. There were some complaints, but nothing that couldn’t be handled by an extra rice cake, chicken foot or stomach rind thrown into the mix.
The three sisters did this every day. They did not get a day off. They were working twelve hour shifts, seven days a week, every day of the year. They grew tired and wearisome.
They approached the businessman, their boss, and asked them if there was any way out of this slavery. To which the businessman replied, “Well, you could always become a working girl.”
To which all of them contended and settled that they would never become working girls.
With the only means of escape from their slavery being to become working girls, the three sisters grew angry. They did not know what to do.
So one day they made a pact. They would poison their food supplies and commit suicide. It was a suicide pact and it was their only means of escape.
For the entire day they served the people of Shang Hai, poisoning them all with their rice cakes, chicken feet and stomach rinds. The rice cakes sold very well, the chicken feet sold some and the stomach rinds sold a few. At the end of the day, they all ate their own supplies. Many people died that day.
You’d think that would be the end of the story. But it wasn’t. You see, the three sisters were cursed that day by Prince Yama, the Chinese God of the underworld. He cursed the three sisters.
Prince Yama spoke the curse to the three sisters, “Forever will your spirits be bound to this place. The only way of release from your curse is if all the streets of Shang Hai are free from all the rice cakes, chicken feet and stomach rinds in the city.”
And the three sister’s ghosts still haunt the city of Shang Hai. Waiting for their spirits to be released from the curse. Waiting for all of the rice cakes, chicken feet and stomach rinds in the city of Shang Hai to be consumed until there is none left. You can see them walking the streets at night, waiting and yearning for the day when all of these delicacies will disappear.