One of the skills I've mastered since moving to the greater Seattle area is that of using chopsticks. Kristin and I love the diversity of the area and have a favorite restaurant in each of the major Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, and Thai flavors. And as a result we've become fans of the chopsticks, even so much as to know that we prefer the throwaway wooden ones to the fancy (but slippery) porcelain ones. We've come a long way since the days of "experimenting" at the barely-edible Panda Express in Bridgewater Commons.
But, as I learned today, there is such thing as too much chopsticks.
My friend Derek and I capped off a rather tough midweek mountain bike ride tonight with a trip to the Rogue Brewery in Issaquah. It was a perfect night for dining outside and Derek snagged us a table on the sidewalk so we could watch the bikes and stretch out -- and by stretch out, I really mean air out. Derek still had his Shimano SPD shoes on and, as for me, no amount of wet-wipes and deodorant could be sure to eliminate the stench I was undoubtedly emanating.
Rogue has some pretty good beers -- you may have seen their Dead Guy Ale or Old Crustacean barley wine in a micro-brew store near you -- but their guest beers list is sometimes even better. Today they had the Avery Maharaja that recently came recommended by the biggest beer afficionado I know. It was superb. Expensive, but excellent. And 9.7% in alcohol.
So Derek and I ordered up some Maharajas and a couple of Kobe beef bacon cheeseburgers and I splurged and had a cup of the Kobe beef chili. Those who have yet to visit us out here should know that the food in many of the local breweries is as good if not better than most proper restaurants. Certainly better than the TGI McApplegans.
We drink our beers, talk about mountain biking, cars, videogames, and compare and contrast various Toronto strip clubs. You know, your basic guy talk. Then the food comes out and on each plate is a pair of chopsticks.
Derek's plate is put down first and I can immediately sense his mind shifting into overdrive. His brow furrowed, he adjusts his posture in his seat, and his laid back appearance becomes slightly more inquisitive. My plate is put down shortly after and although mine also has the set of chopsticks, Derek doesn't see it. He thinks that only he received the chopsticks. He thinks that only his bacon cheeseburger has come with a pair of chopsticks.
Derek is Chinese.
"What's with the chopsticks?" he asks. There's a slight trace of angst or defensiveness in his voice.
The waitress stumbles over her words. "Um, yeah, umm, I don't know." She seems to sense the possible insult or that she's perhaps been caught in a bigoted practical joke and she's visibly uncomfortable.
In hindsight, I could have kept my mouth shut and carefully hid my pair of chopsticks and sat back and watched the fireworks (no Chinese pun intended) unfoil, but I couldn't do it. I was too hungry to suffer the delays, however funny they may have been.
"I have a pair too. What is it, because we ordered Kobe beef, the chef thinks we want to eat our burgers with chopsticks?" I was the only one who made the connection.
The waitress was thankful of the out I had given her, perhaps sensing how insulting the harmless decorative utensil may have been perceived by someone of the Asian persuasion. Especially if that person is the type who sees insult where there is none.
"Yeah, that must be it. I really don't know," the waitress said. She couldn't get away fast enough.
"I thought it was because I was Chinese," Derek said.
I'm pretty sure he was joking. Actually, I'm all but certain he was joking. But I was too busy shoveling french fries into my mouth to tell... with my chopsticks.