When in unfamiliar territory, finding a good place to eat is a favorite activity of mine. In a rural area you can pretty much count on triple the risk factor. I tend to go “way deep” into terra incognita. Yeah, I’m more or less fearless.
(If you’re the type who, given this situation, whips out a smart phone and starts checking web sites for crowd sourced restaurant recommendations… just shut the hell up. You need to put that thing down and join the non-virtual world.)
At any rate I was cruising from nowhere to nowhere with a hankering for Chinese food. I was about as far from China (or anywhere else likely to have good Chinese food) as one can get. I was depressingly resigned to either a greasy burger or a slimy pizza at the next town. To my shock and surprise, I found just what the doctor ordered. Next to a diesel stop there was a Chinese restaurant! How cool is that?
I had my doubts. The guy tending the place wasn’t what I was picturing. I want to be greeted by either Lucy Liu or an eight year old carrying a calculus book. I’m not sure if a fat bubba in a baseball cap has ever served good Chinese food but clearly I was skating on thin ice. Alas, I was hungry and decided to roll the dice. I deliberately ordered something simple, Mongolian Beef. Even if all they did was defrost it and swirl it around in a pan; that’s usually not too unpalatable
Then, too late, I realized my fatal error. The soundtrack was all wrong. All Chinese restaurants in America play the same background music. I don’t know if it’s a law of nature or what but you’ve heard the music too. It’s that twangy guitar thingamajig, sometimes accompanied by the exotic sounding bow based instrument. (I believe I’m referring to a ruan and a erhu. If you knew that without resorting to Wikipedia you’re smarter than me.) I’m under no illusion that actual people in China listen to this. I presume it’s the Chinese equivalent of Michael Bolton and universally despised on the mainland. For all I know the average Chinese person is listening to bootlegs of Miley Cyrus twerking. Or perhaps Devo? Frankly I’d think it was great if they were listening to Devo.
Regardless, I have a Pavlovian response to the proper soundtrack. Good Chinese restaurants (and most bad ones) know this and follow the rules.
Garth Brooks is most definitely not the correct music for any Chinese restaurant. My heart sank.
The place was also empty. In my haste I hadn’t noticed that before. This was not looking good at all.
When bubba disappeared into the kitchen with my order, the music stopped. Had I been mistaken? I imagined him frantically trying to change the music back to the appropriate setting before he lost their single customer of the day.
Another customer dropped by, he’d driven in on an ATV. He looked like the love child of ZZ Top and a Freightliner. This, unlike the music, which I was sure would soon return to “Chinese Restaurant loop tape #87”, didn’t look like a good development either. He was soon joined by another fellow who looked like a wildebeest had hastily pulled on flannel and went looking for spring rolls. The second guy had arrived in a Honda Civic with approximately fifty million miles on whatever parts hadn’t rusted away. A third fellow arrived. He looked reasonably presentable and showed up in an old but serviceable truck carrying about a third of a cord of soggy firewood. I can appreciate that.
All three seemed to know each other and they soon got into a heated discussion about fishing bait. They ordered quickly. I couldn’t hear what they choose. I was wishing I could switch to whatever the locals were eating.
The music returned. It was Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Time for a Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight:
“Nothing good comes from Chinese food cooked to the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd.”
If it had been Freebird I’d have ran.
I should have ran.
The food came. I ate it. I paid for it. I’m still paying for it. I don’t think I’m going to eat redneck Chinese again. I might not eat again. Ever.