I am a firm believer in the old adage, “if you fall off your bicycle, get back on it.”
Metaphorically speaking, of course. In real life, that’s just plain stupid. If I fell off my bike, the last thing in the world I’d do would be to climb back on it. Once bitten, twice shy, you know? I’d be kicking my feet up and nursing a cold beverage while making fun of all the idiots outside riding bikes and risking bodily harm instead.
But, as a concept, the idea works for me. And that is why, last evening after work, I found myself seated across from Tara in a Chinese restaurant a few blocks from home. Ordinarily this would be no big deal, but the last time we had been there was the Friday after Thanksgiving. After eating lunch there I found myself doubled over in agonizing pain, and ended up in the emergency room that night. Little did I know I wouldn’t leave the hospital for six days!
None of this was the fault of the restaurant, mind you. I’d been there several times before, and the food is delicious. Unbeknownst to me, my gall bladder and pancreas were at war with each other that day, turning the whole experience into the Lunch From Hell and providing me with an unfair negative association with the place. I wanted to go back there, eat a meal, and not end up feeling like my guts were being squeezed from the inside out. Get back up on the proverbial bicycle, if you will.
So we strolled into the place last night, and all the memories came flooding back. I recalled how the simple act of sliding into the booth had taken monumental effort. Sipping the egg flower soup caused ribbons of pain to flare through my midsection. When I got to the crab puffs, I nearly cried out in agony. I hadn’t said a word to Tara about my discomfort, but it was at that point that she saw the distress on my face and asked me what was wrong.
I think I’m dying, I wanted to say.
“My stomach is a little upset,” I told her instead.
All this delicious Chinese food was sitting on a plate in front of me, and I could not eat it. The few bites I’d managed to force down would be the last solid food I ate for days.
Because I love Chinese food, and I hate to hold onto negative memories, I was bound and determined to go back and eat there again. Last night’s trip was redemption, and while the atmosphere was eerily similar – same spot, nearly the same booth, same egg drop soup and crab puffs – missing, thankfully, was the agonizing pain searing through my intestines with a white hot intensity. Instead, the food was wonderful, the conversation lively. It’s amazing how much happier you are when you aren’t expecting to keel over and die at any given second.
Best of all was the fantastic Beef Chow Yuk.
Which, incidentally, had me laughing so loudly I probably had our poor waiter questioning my sanity. Maybe “yuk” means “tasty” in China, but in America it means “yuck.” This would be akin to me opening a restaurant in Beijing and serving a dish called Chicken Fan Wei. Fan wei means “feel sick to stomach; feel queasy; disgusting; nausea causing” in both Canton and Mandarin. And you know what? It took me all of ten seconds to figure that out thanks to this amazing little invention called the internet. If I were in charge of the place, I think I’d be a little more sensitive when it came to naming my dish. What smart business person would intentionally turn off his customers with an off-putting name? Taking into account our cultural and linguistic differences, a better name for the dish we ordered last night would be Beef Hou Hek (which translates into “delicious beef”). Hou Hek has no negative connotation in the U.S. of A. If anything, you might think, “how in the heck did they create this amazing beef dish?”
It’s official. I need to open my own Chinese restaurant.
When I do, there will be other changes, as well. No more boring fortunes in the cookies, for starters. (And yes, I realize the fortune cookie is an American invention, but c’mon…it’s the highlight of the meal. Taking it off the menu would be like visiting Disneyland and not riding Pirates Of The Caribbean. Sacrilege). My fortune last night read, A problem will be resolved next week. Yawn. Who cares? Problems are resolved every day: what to wear in the morning, what to cook for dinner, whether you should cross the street in front of oncoming traffic or wait for the light to change, etc. (PS: crossing in front of oncoming traffic is not recommended). Why couldn’t it say something like Thursday you will win the lottery! Be specific, you know. No more generalities. Give me something to get excited about – even if it doesn’t pan out. For a few days anyway, I’ll be happy.
Just as long as I don’t go out and do something foolish, like buy a new car thinking I’ll be able to afford it come Thursday.
Or, have those fortune cookies stroke my ego. Just once I’d love to open up a cookie and see, You are one sexy beast scrawled on that little slip of paper. How about something helpful? Don’t forget to set your DVR for “Grimm” next Friday. THAT is advice I could actually use! Yessir, the fortunes in my Chinese restaurant are going to rock. Everybody will be sexy and coming into a windfall and they’ll always be up to date on the latest and greatest television shows.
I’m also ditching hot and sour soup. Don’t get me wrong, I like things that are hot. And sour. And soup is great. But combining all three? I’m sorry, that shit is nasty.
Sweet ‘n sour, on the other hand, is staying. In fact, I’m adding it to everything. Even the soap dispensers in the bathroom.
I’m adding bacon fried rice, by the way. Barbecued pork is fine and dandy, but it’s not bacon. Can you imagine how fantastic that combination would be? We’d have pretty much the two greatest foods ever, commingling happily together on one plate. Yes, please. In fact, I think I’ll just swap out all the pork for bacon. Go big or go home, right?
Water chestnuts are out, because they have no redeeming quality whatsoever. Fine, they add crunch, but so does celery – and there’s already plenty of that in the food. On the other hand, there’s never enough baby corn. Love that stuff. And it’s why I’m serving, as an appetizer, drumroll please…
Baby corn on the cob.
I know, right? It’s genius! Why hasn’t anybody else thought of this before?!
You know how some establishments hang up signs saying things like, “Proudly serving the Armed Forces?” My banners will read, “Proudly serving MSG.” I’ll never shy away from the fact that I’ll be using it liberally in my cooking. Why wouldn’t I? That stuff is like liquid crack. It makes everything taste better! I intend to promote the hell out of the fact that MSG is my friend – and will be yours, too.
What else? I’m just riffing here, but I’m thinkin’ egg rolls shaped like eggs. (Whimsical!). How about a one-ton wonton challenge? (Fun!). No more chopsticks or forks or spoons or knives – we’re going to be an all-spork joint. (Convenient!). And the little take-out containers used to bring home leftovers? They’ll be edible, too. (Waste not, want not).
All I need is a little money for the initial investment, and I’ll be in business.
If only I was going to win the lottery on Thursday…