I was in a foul mood.
For lunch, I had a Chinese bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich. It had no bacon. It had no cheese, and it was not a sandwich. But still I call it a Chinese bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwich.
My hunger returned rather quickly after that, but the time for lunch had ended. The soups and waters had long since ceased their boil. Whatever I bought would be substandard.
So, I contented myself with a pack of Oreo’s, a treat I had not had in some time. Sweet as they were, Oreo’s do not make a meal.
When dinner yawned, I found myself preoccupied. It passed me by just as lunch had. I knew what would meet me if I ventured for noodles or won tons, of which I had planned to indulge. No, I had made that mistake too many times to repeat it again.
I went to the Muslim noodle store, though without thought of noodles. The hour was late, and the staff was having their own dinner. Either the family is large or the community is tight; a few strangers, always wearing decoratively colored hats, were sharing their meal.
I ask if they are still open, which I knew they were, and, having come inside, gesture to one of the pictures: of bread. One of the staff hurries into the kitchen leaving me with the dining few. I notice a number of buns atop their table and gesture to another member of the staff, wondering what they were called (so that I might order them as well).
Naturally (in hindsight), I was offered one. I refused twice, as was expected of me, before eagerly accepting the morsel. The thought that it might taste awful crossed my mind briefly, but I was hungry.
It was delicious! Completely different from the buns I was familiar with at the university canteen. It was packed with quite a different sort of goodies, many of them spicy. Wherever the staff is from, all of their food holds some measure of kick.
I spoke with the man at the table. His wife (I assume) continued to hand me bun after bun until none were left on the table. They were small, and I refused two/three times between each. I knew they were Muslim, but asked anyways, knowing it was one of the few questions he could understand. I was surprised to hear Allah, though I was pleased we had some common (foreign) word between us. I asked if the buns were halal, and he nodded vigorously, correcting my pronunciation (or putting a Chinese spin on it).
I was offered some chicken wings, which were lathered and dried in a hot sauce. It was good, but to my distress the staff told me that none of it (the wings and the buns) was on the menu. We will have to see if enough RMB can change their minds.