October 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
When I was in high school, I hosted at a Chinese restaurant in the suburbs. The owner was this middle-aged Taiwanese man who my parents had known since they came to the U.S. as grad students. In the journal I kept at that time, I wrote that he reminded me of Mr. Krab from Spongebob Squarepants because he wore these big gold rings on his fingers and would count money with this kind of lustful look in his eyes. Plus he would constantly ask his employees, “Do you know how I run a successful Chinese restaurant?”
“I make sure that it’s really clean because people think that Chinese restaurants are dirty, so when they come to mine, they notice and want to come back.”
“I give kids free Shirley Temples so that later when they’re parents ask where they want to eat, they’ll want to come back to get those Shirley Temples.”
“I hire young Asian girls to work at the counter and make drinks.”
To him, food really wasn’t the thing that would separate his restaurant from the pack. He called himself the executive chef, but he never spent time in the kitchen and also never thought about his menu. He would just stand in the front of the house with me and the other girl who hosted there, sharing his wisdom and drinking soda. The kitchen staff was super capable; the head of the kitchen was the owner’s ‘silent partner’ and there were three other cooks who worked in the kitchen everyday. Everybody in the restaurant worked there every single day of the week except for me and the other host, who was also a high school student. They all spent more time at the restaurant than in their homes. The restaurant opened at 11:00am for lunch and closed at 10:00pm, and the cooks prepared lunch and dinner everday for everyone who worked there. Nothing they prepared was on the menu. It was always home-style Chinese food with cheap, weird cuts of meat and all kinds of Chinese vegetables. I remember eating cartilage a lot.
My mom cooks dinner every night for my family. When I was really young, my grandparents lived with us and cooked, but after they moved away, my mom began to cook for us. Until then, I didn’t even know that my mom could cook, but can she ever! Tonight she made eggplant with garlic sauce, daikon radish soup with mushrooms, tomatoes with eggs, stuffed wheat gluten packets and also a vegetable that’s called “cream cabbage” when it’s translated from Chinese. Whenever I eat dinner with my family, I stuff my face and say, “This is so good!” with my mouth full of food. It’s a really satisfying thing to do. And kind of cartoonish. My mom smiles and tells me to eat more, and puts food into my bowl with her chopsticks.