the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Chinese food

Twittering From a Chinese Restaurant As Billy Joel Plays

It’s nine oclock on a Saturday
The regular crowd Twitters on
There’s an old man sitting next to me
Eating his soup and wonton

He says, son, that’s the iphone, right, isn’t it?
I read about it in the news
Sure, its hip and it’s cute but for me it’s all moot
Since I wear such an older man’s shoes

La la la, de de da
La la, de de da da da

Write me a post, you’re the blogger man
Write me a post tonight
We’re all in the mood for a storyline
And you’re sitting in Hunan Delight

Now Chen at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my eggrolls for free
And he always serves me and he refills my tea
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be
He says, Neil, I believe this is killing me.
As he serves me my moo goo gai pan
I know I can do online marketing
If I just moved myself to San Fran

Oh, la la la, de de da
La la, de de da da da

Now Raj is a unemployed novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he’s talkin’ with his sis, who’s still on her thesis
And probably will be for life

And the waitress is studying medicine
As the old man examines my phone
Yes, we’re all in a restaurant called loneliness
But it’s better than eatin’ alone

Write me a post, you’re the blogger man
Write me a post tonight
Well, were all in the mood for a storyline
And you’re sitting in Hunan Delight

Dear Chinese People,


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,


In Praise of Chinese Restaurants


If I can make it to New York soon, I’d like to go see "Have You Eaten Yet?" at the Museum of Chinese in Americas.  It is an exhibit is about the history of Chinese restaurants in America.

Rich, poor, black, white, who doesn’t love Chinese food?   I always thought that if the world was going to be taken over by an enemy, better it be the Chinese than the Russians.  At least we already like their food.

There are many Jewish jokes about American Jews and their love for Chinese food.  My family was no exception.   Growing up in Queens, NY, Chinese restaurants played an important part of my upbringing.   Proust can have his madelaine.   I have kung pao chicken. 

Some random thoughts:

  • Christmas for us was Chinese food night.   Maybe Jews love Chinese restaurants because they were the only places open on Christmas and Easter.

  • We would break our Yom Kippur Fast at a Chinese restaurant, usually a fancy place like King Yum, where they had exotic flaming dishes which we never ordered because they were too expensive.

  • We sometimes ate pork in a Chinese restaurant because it was somehow more kosher than the pork of any other ethnic group.

  • My mother tried to make her own "pepper steak" and "chow mein," with limited success.

  • I first considered myself "sophisticated" when I learned to use chopsticks.

  • I still remember the excitement of eating in my first Szechuan and Hunan restaurants in Manhattan and realizing that egg foo young isn’t really Chinese food.

  • I also remember the excitement of seeing what Chinese people really ate, and realizing the food I was eating in the Szechuan and Hunan restaurants wasn’t really Chinese food, either.

  • I couldn’t help trying a Chinese restaurant in Madrid with a really weird menu, and realizing that it was adapted for Spanish tastes as much as Chinese immigrants to America adapted their cuisine for us.

  • I spent too much time hanging out in the Formosa Cafe when I first moved to Los Angeles.  What a cool place.  The worst Chinese food I’ve ever tasted.

  • I still keep fortunes from the fortune cookies in my wallet, waiting for the them to come true.

  • I called my mother last night to tell her to go to this exhibit, but she was out playing Mah Jong.

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