This year we cheerfully participated in the great Jewish American Christmas tradition: Chinese food & a movie! There we were at Shan Dong in Oakland, eating fabulous, cheap food, totally free of any holiday hype or family drama. About half of the customers in the restaurant were Chinese & the other half were white folks who I guess were probably Jewish, but how would I really know w/o asking? (& I didn't feel up to asking.)

Earlier in the day we went for a walk in our neighborhood, duly noting that the only open businesses were the Chinese restaurants -- until we came to a cafe busily cranking out espresso. Once inside, we realized that the place is run by Chinese Americans. Of course.


Yesterday was a good day. I went over to Meigan's & made pies all afternoon with the 3 o'clock girls. Then I spent the entire evening devouring Kip Fulbeck's book Paper Bullets, which Peggy lent me. One great thing about this book is that it's "a fictional autobiography"; that really gives a writer room to move! It'll be good for me to remember this concept as I work with the Chinese restaurants, which can sometimes feel so weighed down by mountains of "facts" (statistical, historical, all kinds). Totally gripping facts, sure, but I've always been more interested in a different kind of truth.


By the way... just for the record: not all Chinese restaurants in Wyoming are bad. But I'm not going to name names.

You must remember, they have to adapt to local tastes. Don't scare the customers! No braised duck feet!

Nothing provokes a craving for good Chinese food quite like bad Chinese food. When we were beset with too many scary buffets in Wyoming I started fantasizing about Ocean Restaurant at home in San Francisco. For one reason & another, we haven't made it back there since we got home, until now. Just looking at menus this past week got my craving going again, until I started ranting incoherently about Hong Kong (Cantonese food capital of the world). Ocean is an excellent cure for this affliction & so we finally went tonight. Ginger & scallion LOBSTER!!!!! I swear I feel about 300% better.


I dreamt about Wyoming last night, the open plain & endless sky, all that light... & then that oh-so-human feeling of curiosity when you drive into a town, wanting to check it all out & see what it's like, so interesting just because there are people there instead of antelope & cattle.


Some of the survey results are too good not to share right away. Here is an assortment of "earliest Chinese restaurant memories":

Jiannbin Lee Shiao:
The "Blue Hawaii" restaurant in Nashville, TN, whose owners were family friends and whose menu included flaming ice-cream.

Mrs. Abigail M. Harris:
My earliest memory is not of going to a Chinese restaurant, but of my parents getting dressed up and leaving me at home with a baby-sitter when they would go to Wing‚s Tea House in Lexington, KY. I liked all the excitement surrounding this special night out, and I knew that in the morning there would be a big orange Almond Cookie for me! I must have been 4 or 5 years old.

Aleesha Pruett:
This was the neighborhood Chinese Food experience in West Philly. The first thing you see is the big black Iron security gate as you pass through the doorway. There was usually a plastic chair or two for you to sit in while you were waiting for your order. While I sat, my mother or grandmother would place the order and I would look around the tiny vestibular like room. The whole experience told me that this was a "grown up" thing. From the bars on the doors to the height of the walk up window. Ghetto Chinese is all about fortification. And I'm not speaking about nutritional value. You never eat in a Ghetto Chinese resturant, and most times, the ordering window looked like the banks of yesteryear. The ordering window was encased in some sort of glass or plastic like a bank teller window.  Some of the resturants actually had carousels where you would place your money inside, and spin it around so that payment could be received. Minutes later, your food would be placed in the carousel with your change and spun back to you. My mom would give the food order and join me in the plastic chairs waiting patiently while strange sounds and smells wafted through and under the glass.  When I was a little girl, I thought that Chinese food was a code name for shrimp. Because we only ordered, shrimp fried rice, shrimp with lobster sauce, shrimp Yak (sp?) (sounds like yock) or shrimp chow fun. No matter what it was, it started with shrimp.


Why am I not asleep?!


I've gotten about 100 replies to the survey so far, & people are beginning to forward it to more people now, so another round of responses is trickling in. I am full of reactions & ideas but I don't want to skew the survey results by saying anything too soon, so I have to restrain myself! I'm such a latent academic that way. Well, not really.

hey! I finally got it to work! It's pouring buckets out there, the wind is howling & the house is leaking, but at least my blog works! Let me now enter the realm of trendy geekdom... la la la....