We hopped on the subway — the one, we’re supposed to call it — and rode south, using our new metro cards. We went to Chinatown to eat Cantonese food, which we planned to refer to frequently, so that New Yorkers — like our friends Marc and Marina, for instance — would realize we’re really quite sophisticated.
After walking a few blocks east, we went from restaurant to restaurant, peering in the windows and checking out the menus. Since we were starving, we very quickly decided we’d found an authentic restaurant and barged in. No need to quibble when you’re hungry.
“We have to get Cantonese food, remember,” my husband muttered. “I’m not fooling around with any of that other stuff.”
The waiter showed up, pencil in hand. We ordered dumplings as appetizers, then split an entree of curried chicken.
“Can you get us chopsticks?” my husband asked the waiter.
The waiter looked at him strangely and shook his head.
“Chopsticks?” my husband said again.
The waiter frowned and walked off.
Well, chopsticks. I happen to have a murky history with chopsticks myself. For years, I made fun of my husband for using them, especially when we ate Thai food, since I’d read that Thais used forks, ha, ha, ha. The truth was, I didn’t know how to use chopsticks and was too lazy to learn. But then we went to Japan for a week in 1999, and I decided this was it. Either I’d learn to use chopsticks in that week, I promised myself, or I’d starve to death. It would take more than a couple of skinny sticks to stand between me and a decent meal, so I didn’t starve. I’m pretty decent with chopsticks now, so try to use them every chance I get, just in case someone notices.
Anyway, the waiter brought our dumplings.
“Can you bring us some chopsticks, please?” my husband asked the waiter, who disappeared.
We waited for a few minutes. We were dying of starvation. The dumplings smelled wonderful. We started eating them with a fork. The waiter moved swiftly past us, dropping chopsticks at other tables. Everybody’s table but ours.
The dumplings disappeared. So did the plate. Our curried chicken arrived, smelling wonderful. “Can you bring us — ” my husband said, before the waiter bolted for the kitchen.
The curried chicken, I have to say, was sublime, even if we had to eat it with our forks. We cleaned our plate till it shone under the fluorescent lights.
“By the time we leave New York,” my husband vowed, “I’m going to have the waiter’s attention, by God. They’re going to bring us chopsticks the next time.”
He said this with Scarlett O’Hara’s “with God as my witness” fierceness. They’d better watch out the next time we come back. You don’t mess with Southerners and their food implements.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
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