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After nearly two hours of intense negotiation, the parents of Dana Breslin have agreed to join her and her new boyfriend for dinner at a dim sum restaurant. Included in the treaty is an agreement that no one will be forced to consume “weird things”, all mysterious sauces will be optional, and her father is allowed to bring a fork from home in case the restaurant doesn’t have any.
“What does this guy think we are, Chinese?” said Dana’s mom, nervously drumming her very pale fingers on the table. “He knows we’re not Chinese, right? Do they have chopsticks there, or is it like bowling where you bring your own equipment from home? Dana, you’ve told him that we’re not Chinese, right?”
Dana has explained to her Midwestern parents that dim sum is merely bite-sized Chinese food served in steamer baskets or small plates. While her argument was calm and reasoned, it was largely ignored by the terrified couple, who made a point to stuff their faces with potato chips and cookies before leaving for the restaurant.
The uncomfortableness expanded into a full-blown panic attack the moment the first tray of dumplings reached the table.
“Oh dear lord, they forgot to cook them,” said Dana’s Mom, reminding everyone at the table for the first of seven times that there’s a Denny’s restaurant within walking distance. “Quick, send them back before they charge us!”
“Gahh! What’s happening?!” said Dana’s Dad. “This one’s filled with soup, for Christ’s sake! Are they drunk back there? Is this a thing they do to tourists for a laugh? Some wacky bukkake thing?”
Being careful not to think about her father’s suspiciously correct usage of an obscure Japanese pornography term in everyday conversation, Dana tried to calm her parents’ fear of the unknown by relating it to the ingredients used to prepare their own culture’s mayonnaise and potato-based dishes.
Chinese dumplings are merely dough, meat and vegetables; the same ingredients Dana’s parents have eaten nearly every meal for the entirety of their lives. This intelligent explanation was met with intense aggression.
“It’s all soggy and filled with puss! I’m not eating it!” said Dad. “Somebody whizzed in my dim dum.”
“It’s a dumpling filled with soup, Dad,” said Dana. “You eat soup all the time. Stop being such a baby.”
“No! This soup’s all Chinese and weird,” said Dad. “If it’s soup, they should serve it in a goddamned bowl. How do I know something dangerous isn’t gonna crawl out of one and sting the inside of my mouth while I’m eating it?”
Dana reminded her father that there are many things he eats - like chicken pot pie, ravioli and Hot Pockets - that could also have venomous spiders or exotic animal genitalia hidden inside them. She also reminded him that spaghetti, which her parents eat twice per week for dinner, is also just soggy noodles.
“We’re not in a manufacturing war with the Italians, Dana,” said Dad. “I’m sorry if it’s offensive, but I’m not letting the Chinese sneak mysterious liquids into my mouth without permission.”
There were also three different moments throughout the meal, each more awkward than the last, in which her father tried to convince everyone to stop eating the delicious, freshly prepared Chinese food and instead consume stale candy from his pocket.
“Don’t worry about me not eating. I’ll be fine,” said Dad, pulling a package of Tic Tacs out of his pocket and slowly consuming them, one by one. “No, I’m fine. I know these. I’m safe with these. These will not be regretted later tonight when the rest of you come down with a case of Mau’s Revenge.”
This frustration of this dinner comes with a bit of irony. Dana spent most of her childhood throwing tantrums when asked to eat dinner anywhere except a fast food restaurant. It seems the tables have turned, with Dana now burdened with getting her parents to eat food that wasn’t cooked in a microwave or advertised by a grown man dressed as a clown.
Thirty minutes into the dinner, Dana stopped speaking to her parents entirely when her mom angrily demanded to know why there were “tacos” inside her steamed buns, and asked the waiter if they were sure the lotus leaf used to wrap the lo mai gai wasn’t poison oak.
“Did they wash the leaf first?” said Mom to the puzzled server. “They know they can’t just take things from nature and serve them? That leaf may have had ants crawling around on it, doing their business. Sir, can you just have them run all these under the faucet?”
Dana sighed loudly and asked for the check, praying she could discreetly pay it before her parents protested and tried to demand discounts. No matter how embarrassing things became, Dana took solace in the fact that it was still better than when she dated that guy from India.
“Remember to be polite, dear,” whispered Mom to Dad. “Whenever Dana tells you to eat something weird, put it in your mouth for a few seconds and then spit it into your napkin when she’s not looking. We’ve both put up with just about enough of this dim dum soup nonsense.”