Wednesday, September 14, 2022

COURAGEOUS SOLID PURITY

Watched an old man ordering, sequentially, three dishes from the kitchen, while I enjoyed a hot cuppa and a snack at a bakery-chachanteng in C'town. He'd eat a bit, and put the rest in a take-out container. From which one can deduce that he lives by himself in a single-room occupancy hotel, and has a refrigerator and a microwave. As the most likely scenario.

Judging by how little he ate, he had enough for six more meals there. They seemed to know him at this establishment. So he isn't entirely without connections or community.
And he acted like he had all of his faculties intact.

Old people don't eat much. It's hard to have a fully balanced diet when you don't have a large appetite, and lack your own cooking facilities. The tendency is to snack, nibble, and have bags of fried dry salty kibble around for those late night gnawings.

Years ago, 'Uncle' would occupy one of the tables at Mike's place, dozing in between beers. When he woke up we'd be treated to his social talk. "Mongolian beef, hot." "The Forty Niners, huh." "How about Hooked on Phonics?" "Wang computers, bankrupt." We probably heard all of those statements, with minor variations, several hundreds of times.
Other than Mongolian beef, I don't know what he ate.
Three or four beers a night, though.

He wore a hat (trilby), and was always neatly dressed. Shirt and jacket.
His kin, as far as I knew, had moved away from Chinatown.
Most of the time he was asleep.
A nice old chap.

He'd be well over a hundred if he was still alive.
Milk tea, egg tart. The waitress there has interesting eye-brow tics. Scrunch blink, scrunch blink. She's small and birdlike, with a peppy personality. Speaks Toishanese. Quite probably everyone at that place and a related establishment is originally from Toishan, certainly many of the regular customers are. Dynamite baked goods. Decent Hong Kong Western style food, although the baked spaghetti chicken leg or porkchops, flooded with melted cheese, would frighten anyone who knew how to spell 'cholesterol'.

The Chinese name for cholesterol (膽固醇 'daam gu seun') is actually quite positive: courageous solid purity. It's warm and comforting, not scary at all.

Mister "Three boxes to-go" did NOT order any of those dishes. One of his plastic containers had bitter melon and fish with black bean sauce over rice (涼瓜斑球飯 'leung gwaa pan kau fan'), very healthy. One had some kind of chow mein (炒麵 'chaau min) with lots of onion (洋蔥 'yeung chong') and meat, and one was unidentifiable from a distance.
He left about ten minutes before I did.


I may have overdone the grocery shopping. Those last six blocks were painful. My right leg belongs to the dark side at this point. Dang. Had to rest and relight my pipe several times.




Mongolian Beef (蒙古牛肉 'mong gu ngau yiuk') is not, strictly speaking, Cantonese home town food. Invented in Taiwan in the fifties. Sliced beef and onion, a few dried chilies, plenty brown gravy. But Cantonese people have an adventurous streak. Hence all the old folks in Chinatown living alone after their retirement. Some of whom are fans of the Forty Niners (三藩市四九人足球隊 'saam faan si sei gau yan juk kau deui), or evince similar eccentricities. "Our team, you know."



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