I spend a lot of time thinking about food. It's possible I spend more time thinking about it than I do eating it. And, like other areas of life, it would seem the Chinese restaurant experience of my youth is quickly disappearing from the American landscape.
I miss Eddy's Place, the weekly destination of my youth. Eddy is a family friend, as is Rosie, his long-time waitress. I very nearly proposed to Lori there, but got nervous when we walked in to find my parents sitting at a corner table. (I did ask, and she accepted, later that evening.) We have an afghan on our sofa that Rosie gave us as a wedding present. Since Eddy had been pushed into closing by his landlord, he and Rosie came to my sister's wedding, and it was a joy to see them again. This is not a typical restaurateur-client relationship, and I'm okay with that.
Eddy's was not exactly unique in my childhood. There were four or five other Chinese restaurants of the same sit-down variety that made their way though our dining spectrum, and only one little delivery place. There was no such thing as the 'Super Happy Steam Buffet of Overcookedness' in my childhood. I always got a placemat that told me what my zodiac sign meant, and strangely, it's pretty dead-on for me.
There were always egg rolls and egg foo young, and later, dozens of potstickers. (Due to that family friendship, I have a dozen or so of Eddy's potstickers, frozen for later consumption and made by the man himself in his own home kitchen as a gift to my parents.) There was custom ordering, combinations that didn't exist on the soy-stained paper menu. When we were children, my sister would order milk, and since she was, apparently, the only customer who ever ordered it, Eddy would have to send someone across the street to the tiny grocery store to buy some.
As time has passed, I've watched those sit-down restaurants disappear. In their place, buffets of questionable quality and tiny carry-out places have cropped up. Lori and I tried yet another buffet last night, hoping for something of higher quality than we got. So awful was this place, with multi-colored light bulbs, and a scratchy PA system that broke out into the traditional 'Happy Bursday To You' at one point (yes, bursday. Really.) and the too-common steamed beyond recognition food, that we'll never go back.
With few exceptions for the high-priced Chinese-Restaurant-As-Fine-Dining places, most of the sit-down places have fallen to disrepair, fish tanks empty or covered in algae, ceiling tiles falling down from unattended roof leaks. Now, most of the places that will sell me carryout belong to families or corporations that have purchased the Chinese restaurant kit, advertised as 'New York Style'. These places, in Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio (and I'm sure...your state has them, too...) have the same menus, the same pictures of pre-staged dishes, the same chairs with fan-patterned vinyl, usually green but occasionally pink.
What they don't have is the same charm of the neighborhood restaurant, a casual family-owned place where the kitchen is hidden, where traditional music is streamed through bad speakers, and where I might even get an odd mix of Chinese-style and American dishes, like a plate of carrot sticks and olives, or the option to order a hamburger. I've never ordered a hamburger at a Chinese restaurant, but it was comforting to know it was there. (I spent years with our daughters ordering chicken strips at the Mexican restaurant, so a hamburger at the Chinese place would have opened up our family dining options a little more before their palates grew.)
When I Google Eddy's Place for nostalgia's sake, the restaurant now comes up with his home address. I can even see it on Google Stalker View. Maybe this means I can go to Eddy's again.
He won't mind, I'm sure.
Oh, Just Shut Up and Lie Down Somewhere
4 weeks ago