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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Dinner is served...Chinese style

Last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with my relatives at a fine Chinese restaurent on Broadway. From past experience, I have learned that these sorts of dinners consist of at least eight courses of meat, seafood, and more meat. So, to prepare for this gastronomical treat, I decided to have a light snack (read: practically nothing) for lunch. I was very happy with myself for having successfully ignored the grumbling complaints of my gut for most of the day, but when the first course came I realized that I had perhaps made a mistake. You see, I am allergic to crabs and the first course just so happened to be crab soup. Seeing this, my stomach contorted itself to punish me for ignoring it at lunch. I explained to the greedy little guy that the next course would likely be some sort of chicken dish which I would devour. To my chagrin, and to my gut's absolute horror, the next course was salt and pepper crab. At this point, my stomach threatened to turn itself inside out to feast on its own flesh to my demise. I threw all cultural sensitivity aside and muttered to my mother that if the next dish had crab in it, I would have to excuse myself to get a Big Mac from across the street. This suggestion was met with a frown. Things were looking grim.

Thankfully, the next course would be that old whiteman's favorite: sweet and sour Pork (I was surprised to see this sort of dish at such a fine restaurant but I was too hungry to care). Unfortunately, Confucian laws prevented me from reaching across the table to secure a healthy supply of this juicy, succulent pork and I had to wait my turn as my relatives began to play Chinese Russian Roulette with the lazy suzy upon which the dishes were served. The Chinese version of this game of chicken is not as deadly as its Russian counterpart, but to me it was equally cruel. The game is played like this: everyone at the table must pretend to refuse the food in front them and must defer to someone more "honorable" by spinning the dish to him. This person, would do the same and this would continue until the dish landed in front of the "winner". Normally, this game is simple since the "winner" is always the oldest member of the family. However, last night there were guests at the table, and in these situations, things can sometimes get out of hand, leading to arguments, fist fights and sometimes even civil war. Luckily there was little violence on this particular night and the winner was determined rather quickly. Finally, the lazy suzy spun in my direction and I had to use every last ounce of strength to procure four large pieces of pork and lifted them to my trembling mouth.

Having satisfied my physical needs, I had to turn my attention to the inevitable concerns that my relatives had to raise about my life. These included thoughtful diddies like "it's such a shame that you can't read or write Chinese", which can be roughly translated as "it's shameful that you're illiterate". I wanted to reply that if the Chinese people had chosen to go with a phonetic system of writing like the Vietnamese, I would be reading and writing perfectly well. But I knew that such a response would only be met with humourless stares and blank expressions suggesting I be shot on the spot, so I held my tongue and promised to be more diligent with learning "the language of 5000 years". I had similar responses to deflect countless other "concerns", starting each one with "yes, I will be more diligent with...".

Finally, the final course (read bean soup) was served and I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. As I walked out of the restaurant, I thought about how so many Chinese families have had to live three generations under one roof and I began to wonder if Prozac, like gunpowder and the compass, was a Chinese invention stolen by the Europeans.

Your Favorite Jerk


At Wednesday, June 23, 2004 2:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tsk tsk tsk. The art of proccuring food from a lazy susan at a Chinese restuarant is to not be ashamed of reaching for the food first, the minute the dish is put down. First serve the two ppl beside you, then yourself. This way, you get the best of both worlds: You manage to control how quickly you can eat and, infact, get to pick the best pieces, all the while being able to inject a good dose of filial piety and redeem yourself in the eyes of the relatives for being illiterate. ...oh, and btw, that's "five generations under one roof".



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