Wednesday, February 09, 2022

CHARSIU: A SIGN OF CIVILIZATION

A while back one of my friends described heading home from school one day with a few of his classmates and, on a complete whim, stopping at a roast meats shop in Central. Then happily sitting on the curb scarfing down charsiu and rice. It was utterly delicious! Years later his parents sent him to the United States to get an education.
To an environment where there was no charsiu.
Somewhere in the vast interior.

Several years of hard work and arduous living followed.


When I came back to the United States for college, I experienced something similar. Berkeley at that time did not have much in the way of food. Oh sure, Chez Panisse, Peets, and The Cheese Board were there, and for several golden years Cocolat, but the place was already turning into a puritanical food ghetto filled with Guatamalan wheatgrass and artisanal tofu boutiques -- alleviated by fondu, Top Dog (fondly remembered), and Blondie's Pizza -- but spices where hard to come by, as the silk road ended a few thousand miles east of there.
And Venetian merchants didn't venture that far.

So, um, I can relate.


Everything I needed (except groene haring) could be found in SF Chinatown. As well as people who did not make rude comments about my accent, assume that I was British, or tell me to go back where I came from. That last is one of my most enduring memories of life in the East Bay. From my point of view, everything between Treasure Island and Manhattan is the outback and filled with howling cannibals. You may have noticed the occasional negative comment about the bush here, as well as a slight distaste. Oh, the negativity!

Sorry about all that. I love my fellow Americans.


Well, food then. Let's talk about food.

One of the things that says 'cosmopolitan' and connected in some way to the civilized world is the existence of a Chinatown, where ingredients and prepared edibles can be found that don't involve utilizing a can opener.
Cantonese roast meats, for instance. Like charsiu pork.

A nice plate of barbecued fatty meat and rice goes a long way to making a city feel like home. And pretty much every place where I can get that also has Sriracha hot sauce on the table, or sambal oelek by the same manufacturer. Nothing beats a good lunch, a hot cup of milk tea, and a copy of the New York Times (or similar liberal print media) for a civilized lazy afternoon. On a warm day with NO snow or hurricanes.

One of the other great things about San Francisco is that many Americans here know where Europe is, and can find it on a map, whereas in Berkeley people think it's somewhere in Denmark, and right next to Disney Land.


The East Bay: wheatgrass and soy milk cappuccinos.
The interior: McDonald's Mc Café.
Plus corndogs.



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