china · foodstuff · on the plate

On the Plate in Huadu, Guangzhou #1

For dinner tonight, I had fried rice and a bowl of noodles. If you think that is a strange combination, it is. However, they are two things I like, so I ate them together.

Now, I am a child. An utter child. I dislike vegetables. I will ask for vegetables to be remoooved. I am a child, but one with a wallet. You may have noticed the abundance of other things with the fried rice. Typically, the dish will be prepared with carrots, onions, chicken, eggs, and rice. Perhaps the picture is too small to notice, but there is a lack of orange. No carrots. I accomplished this after a harrowing trial of translation.

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I loved the fried rice. It was delicious. I did not mind the vegetables. Odd, considering my childlike palate. I did, however, bemoan the carrots. They were of an entirely different taste and texture. It was a jarring experience, those damnable carrots. So, I translated the word carrot and crossed my arms. I shook my head, pointing to the word carrot. The staff nodded, and a day passed. The next I ordered fried rice, there were still carrots.

“This will not stand,” I told myself, and I worked towards further understanding. At the time, I only had a dictionary. I could not translate a sentence. After two plates of with-carrots, I finally struck a cord and was met with understanding. The fried rice was now without carrots!

The end of the story, you would think. The carrots had been vanquished. The child teaching children had gotten his way. All’s well that ends well.

But it did not end.

The next I ordered fried rice, the onions disappeared. It seems they had misinterpretted my disgust of carrots for a disgust of vegetables. Now, one must recognize that I was eating other things throughout this trial. One such dish was noodles. Now, I order noodles for the noodles. I ignore the meat which is often far too chewy to enjoy.

They did not ignore this.

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Soon after the onions disappeared, the meat followed. It would seem that, after leaving meat-filled bowl after meat-filled bowl of noodles, they assumed, having already conveyed to them I was a Christian, that I must not eat meat! How horrified they must have felt! All this time, they had been forcing vegetables and meat on this childlike Christian American!

Now, after having made a fuss over the carrots, I felt I had an obligation to shovel whatever was on the plate into my mouth, but when you took away the carrots and then the onions and then the meat, you have to add more of the rice and eggs, and as rice is, by itself, flavorless, you are going to add more eggs than anything else.

It reached the point where I felt as though I was gorging myself on a plate of scrambled eggs, and it tasted awwwful. The dish had reached critical mass, and I could no longer stand idly by lest it turn entirely yellow.

I spoke with the waitress, and after the entire staff had gathered round my table, war-faced seriousness, and the details of What. I. Wanted. was ironed out, I left. I wanted no carrots. And that was all! No carrots!

I returned the next day and ordered fried rice. I was brought a plate with onions, eggs, chicken, and rice. I took a bite, and I thought to myself, “Why are there so many onions?”

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