March 09, 2005

Ignorance can be bliss

So we’re sitting in the Dim Sum restaurant surrounded by Asians. Being the ignorant redneck that I am, I figure if the place is full of people who eat this on a daily basis, then food has gotta be good. You want authentic Asian food, go where the Asian people eat, right? Right. There’s only one problem; neither of us speaks the language.

The restaurant owners, obviously being shrewd businessmen, anticipated our linguistic ignorance and planned accordingly. They had each employee read Chapter 2 of the popular American book, You’re in America, dammit, so speak English which advises the following:

“If the foreigner doesn’t understand the words coming out of your mouth, you must look them directly in the eye and speak slowly. When you speak slowly to a non-English speaking person, they will automatically become fluent in English. In fact, this works for any language other than English. However, since everyone in the world should speak English as opposed to their native tongue, then we must assume that there is no other language besides English, therefore everyone should understand you automatically.”

Well, the only thing that happened when they spoke slowly was that it took me longer than normal to not understand a single word.

The owners, being the shrewdest of the shrewd, have also anticipated my ability to not understand a slowly spoken foreign language, and devised yet another clever plan to help me. They instructed the wait staff to open the lid and show us what was inside. It went kinda like this:

Waiter: Lifts lid and slowly says something I don’t understand.

Me: Oh! That’s lovely. A jiggly white thing with a pink thing inside of it? Mmmm. Yummy. What about that one there?

Waiter: Lifts lid and slowly says something else I don’t understand.

Me: A green dumpling-like thing with brown bits in it? Dee-licious. Ok, uh, how about that one over there?

Waiter: lifts lid of two other items and slowly says other stuff I’ll never understand.

Me: Cool! Jiggly white stuff with no pink stuff in it. That's my favorite!

The waiter then shows us a few other items. For some reason, I make him go backwards. Something caught my eye.

Me: WAIT! Yes, that one. No, the other one. Go back two spaces. YES! I’ll try that one. Hmm…white bread with ‘meat’ in it. Groovy.

Waiter: lifts lid of one other item and enthusiastically says something slowly that I can’t understand.

Me: This? I should try this white stuff in broth? It’s good? OK, cool. I trust you.

Waiter: Walks off smiling and muttering.

We begin eating. First, I try the stuff that the waiter suggested and it’s not bad. Although it’s a bit chewy like octopus, it has a good flavor so I keep eating, blissfully unaware of what it is. I have no idea what the jiggly white stuff is that surrounds the pink thing, but the pink thing inside turns out to be shrimp. SCORE! There’s a fried ball of stuff that turns out to be a fried shrimp ball. SCORE AGAIN! The ‘meat’ in the white-bread thingy is barbequed pork. TRIPLE SCORE! I still have no idea what the chewy white stuff is, but I keep eating.

One guy comes around with the fried shrimp balls and I hear him say, “Would you like a fried shrimp ball?” I asked him to repeat that. He said, “Would you like a fried shrimp ball?” My brain said “THAT’S ENGLISH!! HE’S SPEAKING ENGLISH!”. I take two fried shrimp balls as a reward for him learning English. As he’s leaving, my brain says, “Hey, ask him what that chewy white stuff is.”

Me: “Yo,” I say, pointing to the chewy white stuff while simultaneously impressing him with my command of the English language, “what’s that chewy white stuff I’m eating?”

Now, folks, we all know that there are times in life when being ignorant of certain facts is a good thing. Remember the first time you realized that your parents did “IT”? And that your grandparents, in order to have made your parents, also did “IT”? Not knowing would have been fine with me. How about the time you realized that your Dentist was gay because none of your other friends got a free prostate exam with their teeth cleaning? Or that the really good-looking girl you talked to at the bar was a guy? You see, folks, what I'm trying to tell you is that you don't always need to know the truth. As Americans, we're always clamoring for the truth. We want Barry Bonds and OJ and W and Bernie Ebbers and many others to tell us the truth. DAMMIT MAN, we say, YOU MUST TELL THE TRUTH! Well, folks, I'm here to tell you that sometimes I'd rather not know the truth.

Waiter: “That,” he says, smiling and pointing to the chewy white stuff, “is beef tripe.”


EEEEEeeewwwww...was it stinky too?


Posted at March 9, 2005 05:13 PM

>I figure if the place is full of people who eat this on a daily basis, then food has gotta be good.

What, you've never heard of McDonald's? Lots of people eat that food daily and we all know it's not good for us!

Posted at March 9, 2005 06:07 PM

This is a perfect illustration of why I have never gone to a Dim Sum restaurant and never will unless I have someone with me who knows EXACTLY what every item is! (Or can ask.)

I couldn't have been too awful, though, if you had been eating it and it didn't kill you. Right? :-)

Posted at March 9, 2005 07:31 PM

They have dim sum in Mississippi? That's awesome. Do you have running water too?

"You want authentic Asian food, go where the Asian people eat, right?" That's what my dad always says.

Posted at March 10, 2005 09:53 AM

You should stop by an asian supermarket some time. All the stuff in there is labeled in other languages and I can't tell what it is. I like to poke and prod the packages - it's like a guessing game.

Then I purchase the basics - tofu, cabbage, miso, etc.

Posted at March 10, 2005 10:44 AM

Poke and prod the packages... that sounds sooo wrong. heheh

Posted at March 10, 2005 10:44 AM

We actually have an Asian market here. I went to it one time and was asked to leave for poking and proding my package.

As for miso, tofu, and cabbage? Eeyew, eeyew, and eeyew.

Posted at March 10, 2005 10:50 AM

hey! don't be dissing tripe... that's good eats :)

seriously... you totally got OWNED by the restaurant owner. but hopefully this experience doesn't put you off eating more tripe and other related "unknown" dim sum food stuffs.

Posted at March 10, 2005 12:36 PM

I will never eat tripe again...knowingly.

Posted at March 10, 2005 01:35 PM

I'm travelling to South Korea for a 4 year work contract. Do you think they'd just brush me off as a stupid, ugly foreigner and let me squeeze and prod food at the market? If not, I'll starve to death! :-S
P.S: I've missed ya ;-)

Posted at March 14, 2005 09:48 AM