So this plan of mine to eat my way through all the Chinese restaurants in the USA is kind of almost working out. A little. I think I’ll be able to do about 90%, including rest stops. (I’m on a Land Rover road trip!!!!) The funny thing is that before I left, I was warned off this plan by many Americans. “It’s awful, not at all like in Hong Kong!” “You’ll get super fat and die!” “You’ll puke yourself to death!” etc.
The truth is of course that the US is full of Chinese cooking Chinese food for other Chinese and themselves. My well-meaning friends were picturing me having Chinese buffet dinners in shitholes, instead of just ordering what I want from waiters) The food so far has been perfectly acceptable; certainly every bit as edible as Canto-food (which I find bland and really suitable for babies). The definite highlight of the Chinese culinary extravaganza so far was the Lau Tsin something restaurant in Philadelphia, and it was even yam cha. Excellent! Succulent! Enormous prawns! Everybody spoke Cantonese!!! And the owner, I realised after looking for a while at the Cantonese opera videos rolling across the many TV screens suspended around the screechingly red and gold room, was in fact the star of the videos!
We got on like a house on fire, and I forgot I wasn’t in Hong Kong to the extent that I didn’t give them a 200% or whatever tip.
Ouch! My two friends were mortified. But really – I was fresh off the boat, innit! However, I should have known this wasn’t Hong Kong or any other Chinese place when I saw Chinese people eating from plates instead of bowls.
Earlier in the day we had been shooting the latest Cantonese – The Movie installment near the Liberty Bell, or Freedom Clock as I call it. There was a huge Falun Gong banner there with some followers kneeling on the grass, meditating. Two mainland women were standing chatting nearby. Mr. Public Security Uncle went up to them, sternly pointing out (in Mando, natch) that where they were standing was not a designated standing area. They both looked a bit stunned. “Oh, here isn’t allowed? Oh, all right…” I tell you, you can take a mainlander out of the mainland! Etc! So this is how to keep them in check: Speak harshly and carry a big moustache.