Chinese food. I love Chinese food. All kinds; the high-end classic cuisine, the cheap take out. Where we live now in Devon, we are a short ride away from some superlative Asian cuisine, and then there are some that are not quite so superlative. But I enjoy them all.
Growing up in Greenwich Village, there were some take out joints but the craze hadn’t quite caught on yet as it would a few years into the future. One of my fondest memories was getting take out Chinese food on a Friday or Saturday night. A real treat. But we didn’t go to one of those take out joints for it. We went straight to the factory where they made it for the many restaurants in town, and probably for some of the other take out joints as well. The exact location is lost to memory, but it was somewhere near what is now the Meat Packing District (except of course now there is no meat-packing going on there it has become the place to go for hot bars and trendy shops). More about the Meat Packing District in a later entry. The place was cavernous, a large industrial building with a floor full of huge vats of fried noodles, wonton soup and chicken chow mein. So huge that there were ladders propped up against the vats so the cooks could stir the pot so to speak. To a lover of Chinese food, it was a little like heaven.
I would go with Mom to pick up the food which was never ordered in advance, and we clearly weren’t the only ones doing the same thing. Mom would knock on an unmarked iron door, which would open ever so slightly. A worker wearing a stained white apron and hat would nod acceptance and open the door wider. We would step in. Now Mom clearly didn’t know how to speak Chinese, and there wasn’t a soul in the place that could speak English, so I am not sure how it all worked out but Mom would point and say something the guy she was talking to couldn’t possibly understand, and then he would say something to Mom that she was equally clueless about and they would both nod and laugh a lot. Somehow we always managed to come away with plastic bags full of hot beauty.
We would carry the bags with their steaming containers back home to the apartment, leaving in our wake scores of suddenly hungry pedestrians. And when we got home we would eat. And eat. And eat. It was something that Mom would never dream of making so it made it all the more special. And being a dumb kid, I waited for the sacred ritual of reading the fortune cookies that were included in little waxed bags. When it was time I would crack mine open and read the so-called proverb. One went something like this:
“A man who has family, friends and food is wealthier than the man-made rich by money and possessions”. Hmmmm….As I sat at the dinner table surrounded by family and enjoying the meal it was hard to disagree.