Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Dear Chinese People,

chinese4.jpg

Dear Chinese People,

For most of my life, your fine Chinese cuisine has been there for me.   No matter where I went, I always found the comfort of your Kung Pao chicken and Hunan Beef.   I’ve feasted in some of your fancier establishments.  I’ve slurped down your food in your cheaper ones.  I’ve enjoyed your $4.99 lunch specials that come with wonton soup and eggroll.   I’ve frequently answered my door to find your smiling delivery man standing there with outstretched arms.

I love you, Chinese food.   You have been my favorite for as long as I remember.  I used to dream about you and your lo mein.

But lately, I feel as if we’ve grown apart.   Although I still enjoy our dates, I feel unfulfilled with your sauces.   Your old standards seem a bit boring.  I’ve tried every dish on your menu.  Every combination platter.   And my eyes have begun to wander.  

Last night, I was hungry, so I drove to my local restaurant, "Hunan Cafe."  But as I was about to pull into the parking lot, I could smell something sensual drawing me elsewhere — to "Chili Thai House" across the street.

I know this is hard to hear, but over the past year,  I’ve found myself thinking more and more about your two beautiful cousins — Japanese food and Thai food.   While I love your  Chinese "earthiness," there is a certain elegance to these other cuisines that you seem to lack.  I ‘m not sure I even think of you as my "favorite" anymore.  At night, rather than dream about lo mein, I dream about the slender curves of the sashimi at "Tokyo Fish."

I’ve tried to keep our relationship going.   My Jewish family is much more comfortable with me going out to be with you than with these more "exotic" Asians.    I’ve tried to add spice to our relationship by doing it in different ways — Cantonese, Hunan, and Szechuan.  I’ve even gone to Chinatown to eat in restaurants that cater to real Chinese customers, but some of those weird-looking dishes were just too kinky for me.

Sometimes, we need to —

"Let go of the past and be grateful for what we had." 

I read that on a fortune cookie from a Chinese Restaurant in Sacramento.    And the cookie is very wise.   We both need to learn from our experiences and move on.

You will never be lonely.  Everyone loves you.   And so do I — just not the same way as I used to.    I wish you all the happiness in the world.  In fact, Double Happiness.   Although I am currently very attracted to the gentle allure of sushi and the complexity of Tum Kha Gai,  I will always remember you as my first love.

Forever yours,

Neil

62 Comments

  1. I love sushi. Big on Chinese food too, but I love sushi and LA has so many excellent bars to eat at.

  2. I actually broke up with Chinese a few years ago when I found myself having similar extrafoodital thoughts much like the ones you seem to be having. We’re sleeping together again, though, thanks to a little restaurant called Eliza’s…

  3. Oh Neil, how right you are. The cookie is wise. The cookie is wise. Thai is great and well, you stole exactly what I was thinking.

  4. Brought an absinthe-blended tear to the eye.

  5. You weren’t aware of your wealth in tears, were you.

  6. Dear Neil,

    If you visit us here in New York and had our succulent Chinese Food you would not betray us and have your affairs with the Japanese and Thai families.

    We welcome you anytime. The Fortune Cookies are crying for you.

    Sincerely,

    New York Chinese Food

  7. “Look to the cookie, Elaine”..I used to love chinese food too, but like you it’s just not the same anymore. Also, good luck finding it in my neck-of-the-woods.

  8. You know, I miss CHinese. DC and B’more are overrun with Thai food, so I just never even get close to Chinese anymore. I adore it…Mmmmmmm….candy chicken (aka sweet and sour) and MooShoo Pork.

  9. As I was reading the beginning, getting bored with the sauces, I was screaming in my head–“Thai food! try you some Thai food!”

    Um, but you didn’t need my help.

    I feel like those Vikings in the Capitol One adverts—Blonde Super-Hero out of work…

    If your ever in my town—why oh why would you—-Thai Gardens, they’re the best.

    Trying to figure out how to pack them up and move them back to NY with me next year.

    Now I have a craving…

  10. Sigh… just like a man in his middle-food crisis. One supports you and understands your loves and passions, nurtures and comforts you for years only to be tossed aside for something younger, sleeker and sexier. “But it makes my wandering palet tingle” you cry… for shame. Tsk, tsk.

  11. Kinky is right! You don’t know kinky until you’ve had to spend a week on the mainland and had cuisine with bugs or chicken with the beak and claws on the side.

  12. Growing up, I loved Chinese food, but it was the only Asian food I ever had in Dallas.

    As soon as I tried Japanese and Thai, it became clear how cloying and salty Chinese food is. And I also broke up with Chinese.

    Though I would still take some Peking duck any day, really.

    Hey, Neil. Just had a thought. There is a chinese place here in Boston called “Shalom Hunan”. Maybe you should give that a try.

  13. As a Jew, I will always come back to Chinese food, but right now I am on a Thai and Vietnamese kick…

  14. When I travel to China I always rediscover how good chinese food CAN be. Back in Paris, it tastes like a salty plastic bag…

    btw neil, it’s not about handcuffs today, but just the basics… Thx for the saga idea 🙂

  15. Neil,

    I left my first love too — for VIETNAMESE FOOD!

    Yummy….

    Nancy

  16. You. Need. A. Girlfriend.

  17. Vietnamese food has always been my first ethnic food love, and we’ve never had to break up. Here is Philly we divide it down even further though, you must declare your devotion to either Vietnam Palace or the Vietnam Restaurant, the two prominent Vietnamese restaurants, located across the street from each other in Chinatown. I am firmly a Vietnam Palace loyalist.

  18. aw, this is so sad. i recently have taken up with chinese, having found a place around the corner that has a $5 steamed chicken and broccoli with the most moist brown rice. i feel like angelina jolie to your jennifer aniston, receiving the rebuked brad pitt (chinese food)…or something. or maybe i should just stop reading star magazine on line at food emporium. 🙂

  19. Neil, perhaps you need to swear off of all Asian food for a while. A trial separation. Clear your palate.

    I would suggest a move to someplace… say… like … Southeastern Minnesota? You would be hard-pressed to find any sort of worthy Asian food there.

    After a few months with your new, corn-fed lovers: “would you like cheese on your cheese casserole?” “tater tot hot dish,” “fried SPAM on a stick,” and any number of angioplasty procedures, you would welcome your lithe old Asian lover with unbridled joy.

    Namaste.
    ~HDJ

  20. I love, love, love Chinese food. But I’m getting bored with it too.

  21. You gotta love someone who can flirt with an eggroll just as easily as he flirts with his ever-increasing female readership.

    If that’s the Hunan Cafe I know, have you ever gone down the street to Genghis Cohen on Fairfax? It’s gotten a little too hipster for its own good but where else can you see movie stars who are rocker wannabes performing live while you much on No Name Duck and Krispy Kanton Knishes? I love the classic Jewish-Chinese restaurants such as Twin Dragon on Pico, or, if you’re really feeling Chosen, the Glatt Kosher Shanghai Diamond Garden. On the other hand, I live right under Koreatown and I must say they have some of the best restaurants in the city. Grab a Korean friend (to make ordering easier) and get thee to Little Seoul.

  22. I’m Chinese, if I lay off Chinese food, my family will disown me.

  23. You lousy bastard. No wonder Sophia is dumping your sorry ass. Loyalty means nothing to you, honor means nothing to you, other people’s happiness means nothing to you. It’s always all about you, isnt it, only about what you want? I could tell it was going to come to this when you tried to pass off those discount flowers as full price, you low life bum. How much do you want to bet, ladies, that he’s been hiding his cheap extraphagous affairs from his local Chinese restaurant, who loves him and trusts him and won’t believe anything bad said about him, and who will continue in this deceived state right to the point where the INS ships their poor deluded selves back to China because of “irregularities” in their immigration status. And who told them about those “irregularities?” That’s right, people, you got it: your own beloved Neilochka, who wanted them out of the way so he can go around chasing other Asian taels without the one that stood by him all those years knowing what he was doing. You contemptible cur, you contumacious coward, you whelpitudinous whelp…all right, I made that last one up, but you get the idea. You ought to be horsewhipped, you swine.

  24. I completely forgot about Vietnamese and Korean food. Thanks. Love them, too.

    Actually, last week, I was on the couch watching “Lost,” but I hardly paid attention to the show because I was so enjoying eating some nice warm Vietnamese Pho.

    Danny — been to all those Chinese places. Been there, done that. I hate Twin Dragon!

    Ashbloem — here’s a little secret that Jews don’t usually tell outsiders: those kosher Chinese restaurants are the pits! No REAL Jew eats in them.

  25. Akaky, all is forgiven. The War is no more (on my side; I declare neutrality – my allies might think otherwise).

    BTW, “horswhipped” and Shuey’s mention of handcuffs, above, conflated into a very attractive picture…

  26. Chinese food and I are still friends. I’ve yet to experience Japanese or Thai foods. I’m not sure that I want to. It’s scary.

  27. Alecia, you haven’t had sushi yet? Oh, boy. Imagine the greatest night of sex ever. Now imagine that in a food. Please go this weekend with someone who knows what to order. Even in Jamestown, there must be some place to go.

    Have your friend take photos of you as you eat. Post them on your blog.

  28. You’ve introduced me to a whole new type of guilt.

  29. I’ve been having a Burmese affair with Myanmar.
    I simply can’t stay away!

  30. When your “exotic Asian dishes” leave you for a younger hotter man, who will take you back? Chinese food will. But it shouldn’t.

  31. This post made me hungry for chinese food. SOME of us are loyal (or have suffered severe gastrointestinal distress from one of chinese food’s fairer cousins).

  32. Soooo wanting to try vietnamese, thai, indian, etc. Have had some japanese and korean–LOVE EM! They’re really hard to find in “po-dunk” Mississippi!! Almost lunch time…now I’m REALLY hungry…thanks!!

  33. Make your own! You’d get some much-needed variety and learn a useful skill with which to impress hot chicks.

  34. Maribeth — I can use chopsticks. Does that count in your book?

  35. Mmmm! I love Thai and Vietnamese food, but Korean, now that has some real weird, oops I mean exotic dishes. I would also stay far away from that if I had a date…you know the cabbage.

    Btw…love the post. Very original and funny.

  36. being chinese, i have to say that i’m loyal to chinese food. i find that the other asian cuisines are gaining popularity because of “trendiness.” but for me, chinese food=comfort food. no pretenses, no muss, no fuss.

  37. and, chinese food will still respect you in the morning.

  38. I would leave a witty comment…
    1) If I were capable of wit rather than slapstick.
    2) If you hadn’t made me so hungry that I have to leave immediately to get something to eat before I gnaw off my arm.

  39. i’ve never cared much for chinese. love, love, love japanese and thai though. welcome to the other side!

    “double happiness” ha ha. 🙂

  40. Neil, what a nice breakup note. Very classy and you didn’t even request break up sex… um… oops never mind, wrong post 😉

  41. Poor, Poor Chinese food! I too have switched to yummy meals that feel like special treats from Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese restuarants. Why is it that those Asian alternates are touted as “healthy” while Chinese is considered bad for you?

  42. Very classy goodbye. When you’re ready to cheat on Thai, may I suggest venturing to Vietnam and Korea?

  43. Chinese food is like a good mistress: You will get distracted by fancier, more fulfilling dishes, but when you just want some good sex it will always be there for you. In 10 minutes.

  44. Move to the Midwest, and knowing how to use chopsticks will make you quite exotic to the nice farm girls who eat their Rice a Roni with a fork.

  45. Yes, I did, Danielle. Don’t tell the rest of the mishpucha.

    Although, this woman’s description of LA Chinese restaurants did get me somewhat aroused again by the ex.

    http://thedeliciouslife.blogspot.com/2005/11/untangle-those-chopticksdine-dish-no-5.html

  46. “Extrafoodital”! Brilliant,Sandra.

    This post made me hungry for some Thai lemongrass soup…and a spicy crunchy tuna roll. So I guess we know where my loyalties lie–divided, but China holds no share.

  47. Ahh..Neil! You need Super Star Young De up here in San Francisco. It’s a Japanese/Chinese delivery place. It’s beautiful. I can get my Mu Shu as well as my edamame and Dragon Roll. Then I don’t feel like I’m straying. Pure genius!

  48. Any cuisine that has any variant of “noodle” has my stomach.

  49. I don’t care what you say. I’m calling out for Chinese tonight.

  50. Ah yes. We know now to take you for good wine and good Thai should you ever come to DC.

  51. My favorite restaurant was a kick-ass Chinese buffet. It changed hands several months ago and they tweaked all the food just enough that I don’t care for it anymore. Makes me sad.

    Also, how nice that your blog has double spaces between sentences! Blogger edits all of mine out. Grrr.

  52. Chinese food will be there when you miss it and come crawling back someday. You’ll see.

  53. I haven’t eaten Chinese food since I lived in China for 6 months. It was a traumatic ordeal.

    But Thai,
    Oh the wonders of Thai. How can you resist a love affair with Thai cusine? I say go for it. Its wrong but you’ll be much happier. Not to mention the old adage set it free if you come back than you belong to me..

    I set you free love, I set you free

    Sincerely,
    Chinese in Austin

  54. Mmmm…Chinese food…AKA my crack addiction, only better-tasting.

    I do have to admit, though, that I have been frequenting the neighborhood Thai restaurant lately because it’s closer than the Chinese one…

  55. Wow, wot a long long line of comments! Say , have u been to HK or China… you have not tasted the real deal till ya there, gotta eat what the locals are eating, not the McD version of it. Peace!

  56. The only Chinese food I’ll eat is Szechuan. I’ve never been a fan of Cantonese. Thai is my favorite though. 🙂

  57. i am feeling the need to get a bit of chinese food and dive in – something hot and spicy.
    i guess that’ll make me the rebound girlfriend… again.

  58. JoeC — I have been to Hong Kong — some of the best (and scariest) Chinese food this American boy ever saw.

  59. Made me hungry. Need to find a chinese food place that has food after 11pm. Must have fortune cookies too…..

  60. I can identify with your inner turmoil but I’ve learned that it’s all about the food harem.

    I mean, as much as I looooove sushi (Nozawa is my BOY) and as the song goes, “one night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster,” I could never totally abandon faithful Chinese. Nor should you. Because maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but someday soon you’ll get that craving. That burning desire.

    So go ahead and take a break, tell all your friends you’re just spending some time apart. But know that the day will come when you will come crawling back. And Chinese will welcome you back with open chopsticks.

  61. I just had Pho for lunch. It was fabulous… is Vietnamese food the *new* Chinese?

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