Once upon a time I’d jump at suggestion of ordering Chinese take-out. Chinese food of my youth, small town 1960’s take-out was much like Wonder bread or Tang, novel for its homogenized predictability. Special fried rice with baby shrimp and bright green peas, beef and broccoli, lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork smothered in artificial red dye stickiness. Fresh, satisfying indulgence reserved for special occasions.
I grew up, moved away, left Chinese take-out nostalgia behind. Try as I might it never tasted as good again, I could take it or leave it. Given a choice, Chinese take-out wouldn’t evoke enthusiasm. It just wasn’t the same. My first pregnancy came with inexplicable aversion to the smell of Five Spice, sight of BBQ Duck displayed in Chinese market windows. Both produced involuntary gagging. Go figure? If my husband craved Chinese, he ate it for lunch at work.
Three pregnancies and ten years later I caved to Chinese take-out pressure. My family loved it, me not so much. Certainly nothing special about it. Special fried rice contained tiny canned shrimp, dry garlic ribs were nothing but bone and gristle. WTF? Last straw arrived late one stormy night when a co-worker and I happened upon back alley horror. Driving to the office after a catering gig we took a short cut up an alley close to the shop. It was pouring rain, a screen door flapped in the wind, six pigeons with clipped wings scattered out the swinging door followed by a frantic cook attempting to corral them. Oh hell no! Remind me not to order from that Chinese restaurant.
Repeated story to another co-worker. You think that’s bad. she replied. Seems her brother works for the gas company. They got a call to attend a mall food court for suspected gas leak. On arrival they investigated service corridor, determined gas odor came from back room of Chinese restaurant. Gained access, discovered employees blow torching hair off dead rats. Double, oh hell no! That was five years ago.
A few days ago my husband really wanted Chinese take-out. Far from thrilled, I took one for the team. Suffice to say it didn’t go well. Five items for $84, are you kidding me? Greasy fried rice with 4 shrimp and 7 peas, sweet and sour pork sans pork under generous clumps of fried batter, soggy lemon chicken coated in thick layers of raw at the centre dough. Nothing to do but laugh, vow not to go there again.
Chinese take-out can live in childhood memories. Grown up Notes is done.