Walking to the New Chinatown Restaurant for dinner after work, I resolve to not get the same old thing. Every time I go there (and it's been off and on for a couple of years now), I end up with chicken and broccoli. Nothing wrong with that. I like chicken. I like broccoli. Ergo, I like chicken and broccoli. But I've fallen into a sort of rut with this place, where that's the only entree I order.
They don't even bother to give me a menu anymore. As a matter of fact, every time I walk through the door, the fella who's usually running the cash register smiles at me and says, "Hi! Chicken Broccoli?"
Not. This. Time. I mean it. I'm tired of being that predictable. There must be plenty of things I'd like on that menu. I should choose another one. I shall choose another one.
When I walk in, he's writing down a take-out order from a youngish dark-haired woman in a navy wool coat and really nice boots. Dressy boots. Boots you only wear when there is absolutely no possibility of bad weather. Looks like she's taking dinner home for the family. Another young man who I don't believe has ever waited on me asks me whether this is for here or to go. As I tell him "For here," my friend behind the counter glances over the young woman's head, sees me, and says:
"Hi! Chicken Broccoli?"
"I don't know yet," I grab one of the xeroxed take-out menus from the counter, and go sit down -- in exactly the same booth as always.
All sorts of stuff here. I skip the beef section. I don't really like beef in Chinese restaurants. Too chewy. Egg Foo Young (I pause briefly and consider the spelling. Shouldn't it be y-u-n-g? I shrug. Spellcheck gone wild, I assume)? That's just a Chinese fritatta, isn't it? Kung Pao chicken? Only if I want to blow the back of my head off. Pork with mushrooms? I don't really trust pork that hasn't been cooked by my Mom. Trichinosis, and all that. Lemon chicken? But that's just meat in sauce. I should eat some vegetables. Broccoli and bean curd in oyster sauce? That's just chicken and broccoli with a slight replacement.
Flip over to the back, to a section entitled "Chef's Specialties." Peking Duck must be ordered in advance. That's just fine, I don't even know if I like duck. Moving on. Stewed fish with brown sauce. What kind of fish? Fresh squid in black bean sauce. Um...no. Happy Family. Nice name, no description. Dragon and Phoenix. Ditto. Ground pork with winter melon. Hmm. There's that pork thing again. Oh dear. Pork stomach soup with sauerkraut. Shudder. Immediately I think, "Chinese haggis!" but then I remember that haggis comes from a sheep. People sure do eat some strange stuff.
The fellow from the counter is at my table now. Smiling. He knows. Oh, yes, he knows. I hang my head in shame.
"I guess I'll have chicken and broccoli," I admit. He reaches for the menu, but I clutch it to me.
"Oh, can I keep this? I want the phone number," I lie. I really want it for my blog entry, because I have nothing with me on which to make notes, and I want to remember the pork stomach soup thing. I also want to read up for the next time I come in here.
As he walks away, I have one little glimmer of an idea for being different:
"Could you maybe have them do that..."
"...in garlic sauce?" He finishes for me. "Sure."
"Thanks." Apparently I've been doing that a lot too.