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A Chinese Restaurant Around the Corner

Fortunately, the menu had little pictures describing the different options, so I could point out my preferences.

I recently dined at an Oriental restaurant so authentic the fortune cookies read in Chinese. The hostess brought tea in a kimono. The kimono kept the tea warm but made it a bit difficult to drink. Two long, slender pieces of wood lay on the place mat and I used those to stir the tea. For some reason this made the hostess giggle. She had a very sweet giggle, but it did not in any way sound Chinese.

She took my order. Fortunately, the menu had little pictures describing the different options, so I could point out my preferences with the tea stirrers. I seem to remember that a Chinese guy once said, "A picture is worth a thousand words." The pictures saved-my-bacon, though I did not see bacon on the menu that day.

I asked for more tea, thinking I could drink it while waiting for my order. The hostess brought more tea in a small, decorated ceramic pot and poured some in my tea cup.

Have you seen one of these Chinese restaurant tea cups? They actually resemble little bowls, rather than cups. They are white and very thick and heavy, to keep the tea warm. However, they only hold about as much tea as a shot glass holds whiskey. So, in a Chinese restaurant, you pour and sip and pour again.

My order came, eventually. It consisted of about seven bowls of steaming hot food: rice, teriyaki chicken, Mongolian beef, fried shrimp and other interesting looking items. I fumbled around for a knife and fork, but found no such item. My hostess pointed at the two tea stirrers and waved a dainty hand around the room. I saw, indeed, that other diners were using the sticks as eating implements.

Eventually, I managed to convey five bites of food in a row to my mouth. The sound of clapping startled me.

"Chop. Stick." She said it with a smile, so I could not do otherwise than attempt to emulate my fellow diners. I picked up the two sticks and plunged them into the teriyaki chicken bowl. That bite of chicken never reached my mouth. To my embarrassment, it landed in my lap.

The hostess left and quickly returned. Instead of a knife and fork, however, she brought a very large cloth napkin or bib and helped me fasten it around my neck. I twiddled the two sticks together and again forked up a bite of the teriyaki chicken. My mouth and my bib shared equal parts of it. I tried again, this time with the rice. It began to seem as if my bib would dine a lot better than myself.

I persevered, though, trying one dish after another. I found that with some of the food, I could use one of the sticks to spear a bite and not lose it. By the time I had emptied most of the bowls of food I had mastered the chopsticks enough that I did not have to ask for seconds.

Eventually, I managed to convey five bites of food in a row to my mouth. The sound of clapping startled me. I looked around to see my fellow diners applauding my new skills. I would have stood and taken a bow, but I was on a roll, now, and went on eating with my tea stirrers.

All in all, I enjoyed a very good meal at the little Chinese restaurant around the corner.

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