Friday, August 29, 2003

Last night, out of pure exhaustion, we ordered Chinese, from the place Jeff likes and I don't. To be fair, the only other time we ordered from there, I had gotten weird walnut fried shrimp, but still. I still don't like them. The potstickers were limp and soggy and tasteless, and the sesame chicken was eh.

So instead of a cooking entry, you get Chinese Food I Have Known. I should preface this with the fact that I am in no way an authentic Chinese food expert or maven or whatnot. The "Chinese" food I eat is almost always takeout and I am sure about as authentic as the bagels they served in my high school cafeteria, which is to say a different thing from the real thing altogether, but something I enjoy/have enjoyed in its own right. (Man, did I love those bagels. And I think they were probably frozen Sara Lee. But something about them. Anyway.)

The first time I remember having Chinese was in some restaurant in California, when we lived out there. I hated the moo shu.

I'm sure we had Chinese when I was younger, I just don't remember. In high school, at home, we would get our takeout from Szechuan in Hurst at home, and I would get it from Szechuan in Fort Worth when I was at school. I have vivid memories of bringing Szechuan back to class, and am not entirely sure I was authorized to leave campus to get it. I also never determined whether or not the two Szechuans were at all related, but their kung pao was identical, so who knows. I also worked at an ill-fated sit-down Chinese restaurant called China Coast. It was a sort of predecessor to PF Chang's, really, brought to you by the same people who owned the Olive Garden and Red Lobster. Olive Garden:Italian::Red Lobster:Seafood::China Coast:Chinese. I have many, many a story from China Coast, but this is the place where I talk about the food. It actually wasn't that bad, but it was overpriced, and weird. I mean, they served bread to start out with. The char su biao were all right (and that was the other thing, they had every Chinese dish any American had ever thought of, and I know I said I don't care about authenticity, but even I know there are some variations in technique and you can't make all Chinese food from one pot.. Anyway.) and the desserts were really, really good. But again- you cannot serve a brownie cheesecake thing, call it the Great Wall of China, and consider it Chinese. I know I said I'm not a stickler for authenticity, but c'mon.

Freshman year of college we used to always order from Larry's, possibly the nastiest Chinese restaurant in the world. Also, my friend Maryann thought Larry's was a ridiculous name for a Chinese restaurant and changed all the menus in our dorm, crossing the name Larry's out and replacing it with Chow Sun Fat, going so far as to change the inside flap of the menu from "Larry's Specials" to "Chow Sun's Delights." Ah, the bliss of cultural ignorance. Maryann swears one time they even answered their own phone "Chow Sun," which is not impossible. No one else but us could have possibly ever ordered their food, and yet I loved their crab rangoon in a way that could only be explained by all the pot I smoked that year.

The rest of my college career I spent in Salt Lake City, where I wrote many a check for pot stickers to a place called Chop Suey Luey's. (I KNOW.) But I had some sort of pot sticker addiction, and they would even take, when you ran out of checks, a deposit slip, if you wrote "This is a check" on it. And I did love their pot stickers.

After college, in Cambridge, there was a place called the Lucky Garden right near my first apartment, whose sesame chicken was the perfect for Hannah perfect sesame chicken. I can't think of it when I'm facing last night's leftover not Lucky Garden sesame chicken, to be quite honest. But see? Potstickers? Crab Rangoon? Sesame chicken? This is not authentic Chinese food that holds my heart. I sometimes feel smug when someone professes their love for sweet and sour pork, but really, I have no leg to stand on.

Then I moved to Boston, and had pot stickers from Hsin Hsin once a week, at least. Their dough casing was substantial. They were three feet away. It was pretty great.

I am sure, in theory, there are many many in-authentic but Good-to-Hannah take out joints in LA. I am just not sure I want to take the time to find them.