Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fortune Telling

“Money is the root of all evil, and a man needs roots.”

You learn the oddest things from fortune cookies. 

Every so often some of the folks down at Home Campus go in for takeout Chinese.  There’s a place nearby – actually not all that far from home – that has a nice deal for lunch as part of their normal menu, and if you work in education they’ll throw in a soda.  It’s not just a can, either – it’s one of those bottles that make you seriously question the long-term health of the American republic. One person is supposed to drink all that?  Okaaaaay.  It will save the invaders time when we all just keel over in advance.

I always get the General Tso Chicken, and I’ve discovered recently that they actually have a menu setting above “Extra Spicy.”  If you tell them “Burn Your Mouth,” they will actually make it spicy enough to register on my non-midwestern taste buds.  Yes, I know that to aficionados of genuine Chinese cuisine such a meal is enough to make them gag on their stinky tofu (“chou doufu” – this is a real thing), but you have to realize that a) I am in Wisconsin, where genuine Chinese food is rarely to be found and not likely to be ordered much in the event it is found, and b) I like General Tso Chicken and therefore don’t care whether it is genuine Chinese cuisine or not.

Sometimes it’s enough just to be tasty.

We gathered in one of the conference rooms which was not, at that moment, being used for any conferencing, and set to eating.  And talking, occasionally about work-related matters.  And generally hanging out.  So in the end I suppose you could say it was a form of conference after all.

I wonder if I should put in for overtime.

Nah.  I don’t get overtime when I’m actually working overtime.

My fortune cookie was the only one with a smart-alec message.  Everyone else’s was in the more traditional vein – “You will meet with great success,” and so on.  I ended up giving it to George, our economics professor, because it seemed the sort of thing that he would appreciate.


John the Scientist said...

General Tso's is a perfectly legitimate variation on an actual Cantonese pork dish. I had some crispy sweet breaded crunchy pork this weekend in a real* chinese eatery in Flushing. The main difference, aside from using pork and enough chilis to cause spontaneous combustion in a Midwesterner, was the addition of pineapple chunks to the sauce. "Chiense" is as broad a term as "European", and encompasses as much variation in cuisine. Sub Gum and Moo Goo Gai pan are the only coolie jokes on dumb Americans I can think of - both were ways to get rid of yesterday's leftovers.

The best fortune my wife (or any of the family) ever got was :"The only obstacle to your success may be your own stupidity". Talk about smart Alec fortunes!

John the Scientist said...

* Real meaning that cow's stomach, fish heads, frog parts and pig uterus were on the menu.

David said...

Well, that's pretty cool about General Tso, then. :) I think I'll stick with my American sense of what bits of the animal are edible, though.

I love that fortune. It needs to be said more often.

Megan said...

There was some stinky tofu in my office. For a very, very short amount of time.

It smells like a rotting dirty diaper.

Eric said...

I was feeling all vindicated by John re: one of my favorite Chinese dishes, until I made the mistake of checking Wikipedia out of curiosity.

Or maybe not a mistake. The version of the dish's history offered by Wikipedia is pretty damn interesting, actually. General Tso's Chicken may not be "authentic" in the sense of "stretching back many hundreds of generations" or somesuch, but a couple of the origin stories tie the dish back to the Nationalist diaspora in the wake of the Communist takeover in 1949, one account tracing the dish back to the KMT's banquet chef, himself an apprentice of one of early-20th-Century China's gourmet chefs. If so, the story of General Tso's Chicken may well be one of action, drama, and brothers turning on brothers for the soul of a fallen nation poised to rise, phoenix-like, to returned greatness.

Not bad for a tasty and inexpensive chicken plate.

TimBo said...

A group of friends went to vacation in India last year. They were surprised, especially those that originally came from India, that Butter Chicken was available pretty much everywhere. Cultural cross-pollination.

John the Scientist said...

Eric, legend has it that the KMT chef was asked to make a chicken dish something like that Cantonese pork dish ,though the whole thing may be apocryphal. The style of breading and frying was known and used before Gen. Tso's was invented.

John the Scientist said...

Megan, I think that your tofu may have gone bad when the seal was broken. How can I tell? Because that smell is a bit *better* than what I was expecting. :D

(Same goes for Durian - it smells better when it's gone a little off).

Anonymous said...

I once got a "chills up and down my spine" fortune.

It was the day I reached out to a friend for help quitting drugs and alcohol. After we decided I would come live with her and her husband, and they would help me go straight, we all went to a little Oriental food joint.

My fortune cookie told me, "Today your life changed completely."

It was true.