So we’re sitting in the Dim Sum restaurant surrounded by Asians. Being the ignorant redneck that I am, I figure if the place is full of people who eat this on a daily basis, then food has gotta be good. You want authentic Asian food, go where the Asian people eat, right? Right. There’s only one problem; neither of us speaks the language.
The restaurant owners, obviously being shrewd businessmen, anticipated our linguistic ignorance and planned accordingly. They had each employee read Chapter 2 of the popular American book, You’re in America, dammit, so speak English which advises the following:
“If the foreigner doesn’t understand the words coming out of your mouth, you must look them directly in the eye and speak slowly. When you speak slowly to a non-English speaking person, they will automatically become fluent in English. In fact, this works for any language other than English. However, since everyone in the world should speak English as opposed to their native tongue, then we must assume that there is no other language besides English, therefore everyone should understand you automatically.”
Well, the only thing that happened when they spoke slowly was that it took me longer than normal to not understand a single word.
The owners, being the shrewdest of the shrewd, have also anticipated my ability to not understand a slowly spoken foreign language, and devised yet another clever plan to help me. They instructed the wait staff to open the lid and show us what was inside. It went kinda like this:
Waiter: Lifts lid and slowly says something I don’t understand.
Me: Oh! That’s lovely. A jiggly white thing with a pink thing inside of it? Mmmm. Yummy. What about that one there?
Waiter: Lifts lid and slowly says something else I don’t understand.
Me: A green dumpling-like thing with brown bits in it? Dee-licious. Ok, uh, how about that one over there?
Waiter: lifts lid of two other items and slowly says other stuff I’ll never understand.
Me: Cool! Jiggly white stuff with no pink stuff in it. That’s my favorite!
The waiter then shows us a few other items. For some reason, I make him go backwards. Something caught my eye.
Me: WAIT! Yes, that one. No, the other one. Go back two spaces. YES! I’ll try that one. Hmm…white bread with ‘meat’ in it. Groovy.
Waiter: lifts lid of one other item and enthusiastically says something slowly that I can’t understand.
Me: This? I should try this white stuff in broth? It’s good? OK, cool. I trust you.
Waiter: Walks off smiling and muttering.
We begin eating. First, I try the stuff that the waiter suggested and it’s not bad. Although it’s a bit chewy like octopus, it has a good flavor so I keep eating, blissfully unaware of what it is. I have no idea what the jiggly white stuff is that surrounds the pink thing, but the pink thing inside turns out to be shrimp. SCORE! There’s a fried ball of stuff that turns out to be a fried shrimp ball. SCORE AGAIN! The ‘meat’ in the white-bread thingy is barbequed pork. TRIPLE SCORE! I still have no idea what the chewy white stuff is, but I keep eating.
One guy comes around with the fried shrimp balls and I hear him say, “Would you like a fried shrimp ball?” I asked him to repeat that. He said, “Would you like a fried shrimp ball?” My brain said “THAT’S ENGLISH!! HE’S SPEAKING ENGLISH!”. I take two fried shrimp balls as a reward for him learning English. As he’s leaving, my brain says, “Hey, ask him what that chewy white stuff is.”
Me: “Yo,” I say, pointing to the chewy white stuff while simultaneously impressing him with my command of the English language, “what’s that chewy white stuff I’m eating?”
Now, folks, we all know that there are times in life when being ignorant of certain facts is a good thing. Remember the first time you realized that your parents did “IT”? And that your grandparents, in order to have made your parents, also did “IT”? Not knowing would have been fine with me. How about the time you realized that your Dentist was gay because none of your other friends got a free prostate exam with their teeth cleaning? Or that the really good-looking girl you talked to at the bar was a guy? You see, folks, what I’m trying to tell you is that you don’t always need to know the truth. As Americans, we’re always clamoring for the truth. We want Barry Bonds and OJ and W and Bernie Ebbers and many others to tell us the truth. DAMMIT MAN, we say, YOU MUST TELL THE TRUTH! Well, folks, I’m here to tell you that sometimes I’d rather not know the truth.
Waiter: “That,” he says, smiling and pointing to the chewy white stuff, “is beef tripe.”