(originally posted 6/16/2012)
In a scene played out across this country every Sunday afternoon in the fall friends and neighbors gather together in front of a TV and share the communal excitement of sport. The thrill of victory and the bitter taste of defeat… the drama all played out before the camera and each detail eagerly analyzed by announcers, galvanizing fans young and old. The players battling the pressure, the injuries, the expectations and the other competitors until just one stands victorious. The result of each game in doubt until the final pin falls.
Yes… pin. I’m talking about bowling…what were you thinking? My living room was rocking yesterday as we all settled in for the 2011-2012 Denny’s PBA Tour Championship match! I won’t go into the details, let’s just say I haven’t seen such shitty bowling since Dennis Jacques’ 157-156 win over Sam Zurich in the 1983 Molson Bowling Challenge. That isn’t the point of this story though. The point is that I must have missed some secret class that explained group dining etiquette because yesterday I suffered through a full-blown incident when it came to ordering out dinner. Let me explain.
Actually… let me ask you a question. Where is it written that Chinese food must be shared? Now if we would have ordered out Italian, French or Canadian (just kidding Canada has no unique food… or culture for that matter) nobody would have even thought about rifling through the bags and taking a bit of everything but just because we ordered Chinese suddenly everyone just assumes that we’re going to line up the little boxes and have it. Hell no! I like sesame shrimp. I ordered sesame shrimp. Get your hands off my fucking sesame shrimp! Am I wrong here?!
I know the history of Chinese food and the influence that both Confucianism and Taoism had on its development. Ever wonder why Chinese food is cut into small bite-sized pieces? Ask Confucius. Taoists on the other hand were more worried about the health benefits over what it looks like and between the two influences they ended up with menu that is equal parts craft and art. I would briefly describe the skill needed to master noodle pulling but I feel I’ve spoken too many times in my stories about noodle pulling as it is. Dig as deep as you wish into Chinese culinary history, but nowhere can you find where it was the norm to prepare eight different entrees and then divide them all up amongst the diners.
Anyway… my point is that if I order sesame shrimp I don’t care if General Tso himself walks in and wants a taste I’m going to tell him if he wanted sesame shrimp he could have ordered it! So there I am… desperately trying to reach my shrimp as it laid out sacrificially between the crispy Szechuan duck and hunan style lamb when I see some lamo in a CLR Windy City Classic t-shirt and Walter Ray Williams Jr. button sinking his fork into my box (I didn’t mean for that to sound so damn sexy… but there it is). The next few seconds were a blur but I ended up cradling my sesame shrimp amid a cacophony of angry comments hurled in my direction. Apparently there had been a casualty in my attempts to secure my shrimp as a portion of beef & broccoli had not survived its descent to my kitchen floor having been knocked over in the tussle. I don’t know why but the idea of eating only what you ordered seemed to really make some people irate. I tried to explain that I love sesame shrimp and had zero interest in barbecued spare ribs, moo shu pork or eggplant with garlic sauce. Does this make me some kind of monster?! When I was done with my impassioned explanation you could have heard a fortune cookie drop.
I retreated back into the living room to watch the last few frames of the day and eat my sesame shrimp. The house had gone deathly quiet… people were obviously overwhelmed with the concept that Chinese food could be individually ordered and consumed. Soon a trickle of people started coming in the living room, their plates bearing testimony to this concept as each held a single entrée with a splash of white rice next to it. I started to feel very validated when I noticed this group slowly encircling me. They all sat down and then, almost as one, they began to eat off each other’s plates! The savages! Smiling at me as they did it. They gratuitously mingled sweet & sour chicken with chow fun, subgum egg foo young with sautéed triple green jade! It got where I couldn’t tell a chow mein from lo mein. I had never seen such wonton behavior. They were no better than jackals surrounding the rotting carcass of a dead water buffalo… and I told them as much.
Well the lesson here is that if you want a certain entrée when you order Chinese takeout make sure you order two… one for yourself and one for the animals that will inevitably want their share.
Wanton… wonton… get it?