Saturday, September 22, 2012

Un-Ameraisian

Why are the best Chinese places always so racistly named?

When I was a kid, the best local Chinese food came from a little kitchen where the front door was always locked and you had to enter through the back. It is perpetually staffed by a couple little Chinese men, a little girl unagingly appears to be about 4 doing math homework on a counter, and one woman behind the counter you will never hear say any words other than menu items and, "Huna Hou, Ah hep ya?" For those of you not well-versed in reading poorly phoneticized accents, that would be "Hunan House, [may] I help you?"

Except we never called it "Hunan House." Province be damned, Hunan just never caught on. Even now, if you were to look it up in my phone, right under the actual name of the restaurant, there is a business name listed on the 40% chance you went to look it up by the name someone who shall remain nameless ended up dubbing it: "Ching-Chong."

Thaaaat's about one or two levels past Hong Kong Phooey.

At least that one was our twelve year old minds not grasping in totality the connotations of our words, like when we were studying immigration era America in school and I asked my barber if he was a first-generation immigrant because he had an accent. I was just interested in where he came from, not accusing. Alright, Ching-Chong was a little racist even to us, but the comparison holds.

Worse, I now live down the street from a Chinese restaurant I lived down the street from as an even younger child. This place is called "Ming Hing." Worse, it was forcibly shut down in the past for serving an unerringly feline variety of "pork."

How do you do that? How do you make a racist, rhyming name for your business and then set out to fulfill horrible ethnic stereotypes? I couldn't open "Uncle Tom's House of Pigs' Feet and Chitlins" and have all my waiters in black face. "Papa Sheckie's Latke Heaven" couldn't get away with charging a 43% gratuity or giving 1/2 those proceeds to Israel's "Bomb the Fuck Out of Palestine" fund. How do the Chinese businesses get away with it?

Sure, I've been to Asian Cuisine and Asian Fusion, but the formers is over-priced for the quality of the Chinese and hit-or-miss with the sushi, and the latter is more like a P.F. Chang's that converts into a night club after you're done ordering your exorbitantly overpriced steak and lobster tail over brown rice. Not exactly authentic.

I guess it's whatever principle keeps greasy spoon diner's continuously stocked with aging, no-nonsense waitresses named "Maude."

Magic.

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