Wednesday, October 09, 2013

dada on rice

Good day.  And welcome to the graduate seminar on Dada Poetry.  I'm your instructor, Tristan Tzara.

Let's start by writing a poem.  On your paper, write three words.  "Mexican."  "Chinese."  "Buffet."  Now cut out each word and randomly rearrange them.

You should get only one effect no matter how often you arrange them.  Being hungry for lunch is not one of them.

OK.  I am no Tom Stoppard.  But you do not need to be a devoted Dadaist to appreciate the point.

Chinese food in Mexico is always a hit and miss proposition.  Almost always a miss.  One of the worst meals I have ever eaten was at a Chinese restaurant in San Miguel de Allende.  The best my dinner partner  could come up with was, "Well, it is good Chinese for Mexico."  The culinary equivalent of "being world famous in Poland."

Then throw that same lackluster food on a buffet table with heat lamps dehydrating it, and you have the perfect excuse for stopping at Burger King for lunch.  I have it on good authority that the recipe for egg rolls used in Mexican Chinese buffets derives from medieval projectiles used to flatten castle walls.

So, I was a bit reluctant to accept the recommendation of my Melaque restaurant chums, Gary and Joyce.  They told me that some of the best food in Manzanillo could be found at Jin Peng.  I refused to believe them because they used the three most feared words in culinary circles.  Jin Peng is a "Mexican Chinese buffet."

On Tuesday, I was in Manzanillo to resume my root canal treatment.  I already knew the answer before the dentist opened the pressure on Old Faithful.  The infection was still there.  So, she again packed it with an alkaline compound and sent me on my infected way until next week.

Since my luck was already running bad, I decided to see if it was possible that Mexican Chinese buffet could be anything but a disaster.  What did I have to lose?  Other than my lunch?

The atmosphere was not promising.  Basic tables.  And a line of food looking as if it had been set out on the beach in Miami.

So, I took a sample of most of the offerings.  And I was pleasantly surprised.  Everything was fresh and moist.

The spicy dishes were tantalizingly hot.  The sweeter dishes were subtle -- not like the death spiral into diabetes of the usual sweet and sour sauce.  The dishes are mainly Cantonese with a few Szechuan mainstays tossed in for variet.

Chang Yan Tak of Lung King Heen has no worry that his dim sum will be dimmed by the cuisine on offer at Jin Peng.  On the other hand, I don't have to leave a month's rent on the table to have a rather nice meal in Manzanillo.  And yesterday I left full and satisfied.

Tzara's poetry was designed to show the meaningless of life and that the social order had created nothing but chaos.  "Mexican Chinese buffet" would have pleased him.  What appears to be a self-actualizing conundrum.

In the case of Jin Peng he would be wrong, though.  Maybe Jim Peng needs a new category.  Just for them.  How about "Family-style Chinese?"

I had planned on ending the day watching my favorite film about happy marriages.  Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Instead, I watched a rather pleasant sunset, and then came home to write about Tristan Tzarza and my Chinese experience -- all while listening to Mozart.

I think I ended up on the better side of my day.

Chan Yan Tak of Lung King Heen

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