Friday, October 12, 2007

Messy, Complex Ethnic Foods

This evening, Leonore and I went out for a light Vietnamese meal. We shared what the restaurant calls Fisher Man Soup - a hot and sour broth filled with mung bean sprouts and a medley of parts of creatures that once lived in water - and egg rolls.

This is an egg roll dish that comes with six shortish Vietnamese egg rolls and plates of lettuce leaves and rice threads and bean sprouts and mint leaves and cucumber slices and shredded carrots and other shredded stuff, plus bowls of fish sauce. You lay a lettuce leaf on a plate, then you put an egg roll and an assortment of the other stuff on the leaf, then you roll the leaf up, then you dip one end of the rolled-up conglomeration in fish sauce, then you stuff that end in your mouth and gnaw off a big bite, then you make grunting animal noises of delight while you chew and swallow. And of course, this not being your native cuisine, you make a mess.

Between bites, we were congratulating each other on making much less mess than in the past. After all these years of trying, we're finally getting the hang of it.

And then it struck me. What if the Vietnamese don't really eat this way at all! What if it's a huge con game, a setup, so that they can laugh at us as we spill sauce and stuff all over the table while thinking that we're really doing this ethnic thing well. All of those ethnic places where we have tried so hard over the years to master the art of eating complex, messy ethnic foods in a genuine, proper, ethnic way - what if it's all a trick designed to make us look stupid? Successfully, at that. What if they're all in cahoots?

I expressed this fear to Leonore around mouthfuls of scrumptious, if messy and complex, Vietnamese egg roll assemblages. She pointed out that we've seen Vietnamese at adjoining tables eating the same dish in the same way. Much more neatly, too, which implies that they've had much more practice, starting at an earlier age, which implies that they really do eat that dish that way. I said that that just shows what a carefully thought out conspiracy it is and how long it's been going on.

You see, just can't trust foreigners. Immigrants are devious by their very nature. The only people you can depend on to be straight with you, whom you can trust not to make up ridiculous stories, are native-born Americans!



Chris said...

I'll have you know my stories are PLENTY ridiculous!

Wait, that didn't come out right...

David said...

I hope it's clear to any random passerby that I'm an immigrant. If not, someone could take that post seriously and be offended. Ya never know.