Friday, December 7, 2012

So Much Food, So Little Time

Monday December 3, 2012
As we all know, December 21, 2012 will be the end of the world. On that day, the 5,125 year Long Count of the Mayan Calendar will run out and that’s that. Facing those cataclysmic circumstances, I won’t apologize for being both ethnocentric and egocentric. First, I’m trying to figure out whether the end of the world on December 21, 2012 is good for the Jews. You see, Hanukkah this year begins on Saturday night December 8 and ends on December 16, 2012. In other words, our celebration will be over 5 days before the end of the world. Jews will have given their children and loved ones gifts for 8 days with so little time left for them to enjoy these things. I doubt if the thank you notes will even be in the mailbox by December 21. On the other hands, our Christian brethren will be thwarted from celebrating Christmas on December 25, 4 days after the end of the world. That means that they can, if they wish, defer shopping for gifts and never face the hassle and expense of satisfying the expectations of myriad family and friends. We urban dwellers, of all religions, may prudently hold off on tipping our doormen, mail deliverers, hair dressers, dog-walkers, babysitters, garage attendants and newspaper deliverers who serve us during the year. On the other hand, anyone can adopt a profligate approach and let it all go before December 21. Such hedonism would obviously transcend race, color, creed or national origin. Can you imagine a Jew eating a BLT seated with a Mormon drinking a cup of coffee?
Going beyond the ethnocentric elements of the end of the world, I have to turn to the egocentric dimension. Specifically, our beautiful daughter-in-law’s birthday is December 21. Please understand that I have always been dedicated to celebrating holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other special events, precisely on the correct date. My mother and my friend Burt always sent me birthday cards arriving 5 days or so early. Without pause, I put the cards aside until the right day and opened them when they should have been opened and then acknowledged them accordingly. I’m not sure of the exact schedule for the end of the world, morning, noon or night, so I am reluctant to send a gift to our daughter-in-law that might go unopened, or worse undelivered.

Meanwhile, you got to eat. Hua Xia Restaurant, 49 Division Street, is a bright, new restaurant with 11 round tables, ranging from 8 tops to 12 tops, all with pink cloths. When I walked in, only one table had patrons, 1 man, 4 women and 1 baby. Two women employees sat at another table shelling peas. One man sat at the front register, but joined two burly Chinese men who came in about 15 minutes after I did.

Besides a pot of tea, a small dish of salted peanuts was given to me along with the menu. Aside from the occasional goose web and pork stomach, the menu was pretty familiar. I ordered House Special Wor Yee Mein ($12.95), with the expectation of getting some form of noodles, and I did. I was served the largest plate of noodles that I ever got not from the hands of an Italian or Jewish mother. It was mei fun with egg, shrimp, clams, scallions, carrots, bean sprouts, sesame seeds and some other finely-diced or slivered ingredients. It was so good that I ate a little over half the portion, which normally would feed three people.

One anomaly that I didn’t explore was the menu calling the place W.C.J (sic) Seafood Restaurant, while the big, new sign in front says Hua Xia, which, according to a little research, means things Chinese or Chinese civilization.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
I admit to a long-standing adherence to the pinko/folksinging/eat-the-rich school of political thought. However, a letter in this week’s issue of The New Yorker has given me pause. The writer was responding to an essay on climate change, expressing pessimism about the prospect for meaningful action in the current political milieu. I was in awe of the writer’s unreflective populism. I believe that the last paragraph of the letter alone could well serve as the basis for a full semester’s examination of American political thought. It reads:

"We need a true democracy in which communities decide what is the most sensible way to satisfy their energy needs, without the interference of people and institutions that are primarily interested in profit."

Some suggested topics for class discussion:

Shall our society function as diverse political communities or one political community? Should climate change be addressed by communities responsive to (local) community needs? Should climate change, and similar fact-based issues, be subject to popular decision making?

Can a true democracy limit the polity? How and when, if ever, should political participation be limited?

Why exclude people and institutions (institutions are people, too, my friend) because of their interest in profit? Shall West Virginia coal miners and/or mining company shareholders be allowed to interfere with our energy decision making?

Meanwhile, I’m going on sabbatical.

Friday, December 7, 2012
I’m having a problem keeping a promise that I made a couple of weeks ago to identify my moveable feast. I had little difficulty making it through the fried crispy noodles, soup, egg roll and scallion pancake. Those are one-man operations. But, now that I’ve gotten to main courses, I’m having trouble going it alone. For instance, while I’ve had an excellent beef with orange flavor at Peking Duck House, 28 Mott Street, which presents its own problem because I’m limiting each restaurant to one dish and Peking Duck House, not surprisingly, does a very good Peking duck, there are so many places where I haven’t tried it yet. If you came with me, we could order beef with orange and say roast chicken with garlic sauce, another dish worth memorializing at its best. That would cut my decision time in half and the world would be a better place, at least until December 21st.

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