Monday, November 10, 2008

The Awesomeness of Nonsense

Sure, it's not always awesome. I should know -- I read a lot of it. But sometimes, nonsense is really great.

Seen on a student's sweatshirt:
Sometimes I think your girlfriend is THE ONE.
(And frankly, imagining Keanu Reeves as anyone's girlfriend is kind of scary. Awesomely scary.)

On the side of a trendy-looking green and white tote bag:
Minutemen Meatpuppets Descendants Angst
(That is some awesomely post-modern poetry right there. Or possibly words chosen at random; it's hard to say.)

In a description of the movie Wuthering Heights:
This movie is full of agon-blessedness and crackdown.
(Not just agon-blessedness. That would be awesome enough. But crackdown! What more could a moviegoer ask for?)

Explaining the sentence "She didn't come, but it's not a big deal":
It means she didn't come, but it's not a brain sample.
(No, no, it's not. That would be too awesome for my test.)

Asked to use a slang word in a sentence:
I always play computer games, so my friends call me Chuck.
(There's a superficial resemblance between the name "Chuck" and the word "geek," so that may be what she was going for, but I prefer to think that "Chuck" is the new and awesome word for people who play computer games.)

Attempting to make a sentence with the word "awesome":
I want to awesome something.

Really, what more awesome use of language could you imagine than to turn awesome from an adjective (a superlatively useful one, admittedly) into a verb? That's some awesome nonsense.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to awesome these papers.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

China Sidelights II: Food Too Cute to Eat

It's been a while since I wrote anything about our summer trip, and you may have forgotten about it entirely. Even I may have forgotten. But what better way to escape the bleakness of late fall than to relive the memories of an exciting summer trip? Our intrepid group of five world travellers had seen the Forbidden City, climbed the Great Wall, feasted on Beijing duck, gazed upon the Ming Tombs, and marvelled at the details of the Terra Cotta Army™. That kind of stuff works up an appetite.

So it was, then, that with the Terra Cotta Army™ behind us, we arrived back at our hotel, footsore and hungry. We showered, changed, and met our guide (the impossibly perky Tracy) out front for some traditional Xi’an cuisine.

Tracy led us across the square, through a street-crossing tunnel, and across another square to our destination. The restaurant owners weren’t shy about their capabilities: the sign (which took up nearly the entire front wall) proclaimed that The Legendary DeFa Chang Restaurant is Renowned for its Superior Delicious Dumplings.

That’s right – dumplings! Like Beijing, Xi'an also has a food specialty. Tracy informed us that at one point Xi’an was the home of an emperor who had a particular fondness for the little delicacies and whose staff satisfied his cravings by creating eight hundred varieties of them. I say “an emperor” because I have sadly been unable to trace this tradition any farther than our irrepressible guide. But historically accurate or not, the results are the same: the Xi’an Dumpling Feast. If Xi’an were a city in the United States, the welcome center would hand out literature proclaiming it to be the “Home of the Dumpling” and it would have a water tower in the shape of a two hundred foot tall pot-sticker.

Whether because that would be tacky in the imperial capitol or because the Chinese are just behind the times when it comes to water towers, the only evidence of the Xi’anese specialty are a profusion of restaurants, each attempting to out-boast the others in signage.

Tracy saw to it that we were comfortably seated, ordered the appropriate feast for us, and cheerfully bowed out, leaving five Westerners, two Chinese waitresses, and a vast array of steamed dumplings. They would bring two or three woven paper-lined serving dishes, each of which contained five of some particular variety of dumpling. When we had each consumed our assortment, the servers would whisk the dishes away and bring out a new set.

The servers spoke no real English, but they had a nice system: when a new dish was brought out, the younger girl would step forward and say “Excuse me!” Once she had gotten our attention, she would point to the various dishes and say things like “Chicken. Pork. Vegetable.” Then she would leave us to our food. Sometimes, even her identifications were unidentifiable. I feel quite sure that once she pointed to a plate of dumplings and said “Excuse me! Garbage.”

After a few rounds of this, Brian tried to strike up a conversation with her while she was going through her routine. “Hey, what’s your name?” he asked, just as she said “Excuse me!” She stared back, uncomprehending and clearly thrown off by the interruption. “Your name?” he repeated, slowly and clearly. “My name—“ (indicating himself) “—is Brian. What is your name?” She frowned, as though greatly irritated, and loudly replied “Excuse me! Tomato! Beef!” Then she whirled on her heel and strode off, leaving us to console Brian by laughing uproariously.

The dumplings, eighteen kinds in all, were exquisite both in form and taste. There were spinach dumplings, tomato-and-pepper dumplings, duck dumplings (shaped like little ducks), fish dumplings, and apparently garbage dumplings (which were fantastic). Our final course was lucky soup, which contained perhaps a dozen miniature dumplings about the size of blueberries, and which conferred good fortune based on how many dumplings you happened to ladle out into your dish – without looking, of course!

As we were leaving, Desiree stopped at the display table by the front door. “Oh, look!” she squealed. “Even more cute little dumplings! Oh, we didn’t get the ones shaped like fish . . . and look – frog dumplings! I want to take them home with me!” Since that was apparently not an option, she had to settle for taking pictures.

I close with a personal recommendation: the Beijing duck was good, and worth trying. But the dumplings were awesome. If you have the good fortune to live in the region of a Xi’an style dumpling restaurant, I urge you to go and order the dumpling feast. You shall not be disappointed.

And seriously, try those garbage ones. They’re great.


P.S. Either my connection or Blogger is being dumb right now . . . pictures coming soon.

P.P.S. OK, two days later I still can't add pictures. It says "your picture has been uploaded!" Except . . . it hasn't. I'll keep working on it. In the meantime, just imagine some really cute and delicious-looking food.

P.P.P.S. Finally! Hooray for Blogger!