Saturday, October 21, 2006

Holding Pattern, Part II

If you wonder whether we’re winning the “War on Terror,” I encourage you to hit a buffet line. It doesn’t have to be an American buffet line, either. Try the Asian Super Buffet in Kenner, LA. Like its scattered, covered, smothered Caucasian friends, the Asian Super Buffet encourages patrons to help themselves with “All You Care To Eat.” Enemy powers have been at work, but, once again, the forces of Good (that’s us, right?) have triumphed. “Care To” is not the American Way. We are a “Can” people. If we believe, we can achieve. If we build it, someone will come. And if we are presented with five separate vats of dumplings (shrimp, pork, shrimp and pork, vegetable, unidentified cheese), we will eat every last blessed one. Because we can.

Buffets are good places for people who don’t like waiting. At the Asian Super Buffet, you can begin loading your plate just as soon as you reach the table. Chopstick use is optional. I gave up my affair with wooden utensils long ago, after starting a small fire in our dishwasher at Hughes. (Note: wooden chopsticks, like silk kimonos, must be hand washed.) My dinner companions all enjoyed some measure of chopstick skill, but as a proud American I refused to feel shamed by my dinnerware selection. Humiliation came later, after I had doused my egg roll with soy sauce. “What did you just put on that egg roll?” Qi’s friend Ching demanded. “....soy sauce,” I squeaked, spearing my third dumpling. Ching sighed, shook his head, and sadly disemboweled his giant king crab.

I hadn’t planned on joining Qi, Ching, and my classmates Tara and Jill for dinner last night -- unlike the buffet, my mood wasn’t Super. Midterms won’t be over until the end of October, and the waiting isn’t sitting well with my psyche. My post-Boston Zen lasted about two weeks, despite the spiritual post-it notes I’ve arranged around my apartment (e.g. “Dear Jesse, Please take yourself less seriously. Love, God.”) If the Brussats were here, they’d be more disappointed than Ching.

But it was Qi’s 25th birthday, and she’d been plugging the Asian Super Buffet for months. She calls it the “Chinese Buffet.” Asia is a pretty big continent to tackle in a single buffet, and I guess the Asian Super Buffet fare is more Chinese than anything else. I can’t imagine, though, that spinach casserole is a Chinese food, or even an Asian food. I also questioned the cultural relevance of pizza, soft-serve ice cream, banana pudding, and macaroons. Appetite is universal, anyhow. We all left with slight stomachaches.

Qi ate the most, though she weighed less than any of us at the table -- less than anyone at the Super Asian Buffet. She managed four plates, to everyone else’s two. “I’m hungry,” she offered. And no one said “Gosh, where do you put it?” or “I wish I had your metabolism,” or other one-liners aimed to punish thin, hungry people. For Qi, what she “could” eat was what she “cared to” eat. She wanted us to care, too. “The crab legs are so good,” she exclaimed. “Have you tried the lo mien?”

The happy combination of “can” and “care” still eludes me, mostly. I wait (for graduation, for visits with friends, for dinner) because I can, not because I care to. But maybe the answer to my “real question” lies in a can/care combo (with Biggie Won Tons and Diet Coke). If waiting isn’t just a task I can do -- if it’s done with care -- then it isn’t a spiritual grind after all. Maybe the translation of “experiencing” is “waiting with care.”

That isn’t what my fortune cookie said, but it’s worth a fork-stab.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

so good....mamasan

1:52 PM  
Blogger Volbak said...

Back from the Pacific earlier that day Horton and I ordered twin steak, spaghetti, bread, salad and two bottles of wine. As we mopped up the waiter, one of those officious and efficacious San Franciscans, said, "Will there be anything else?"
Horton and I exchanged smiles and nods. "We wanna do it all over again," he said. "The wine, too?" the waiter asked. "You bet," I informed him. Have you ever yearned?

3:54 PM  
Blogger Jesseanna said...

That is my all-time favorite HAH story.

7:29 PM  

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