Plus, pasta pennings from San Francisco's past
The food was incredibly good, although as a nine year old, I was somewhat picky -- which my father had a VERY low tolerance for. I loved the Chinese noodles, all the chow mien dishes, and was okay with the rice dishes, but I had a lot of trouble with egg fu yung types; they tasted runny and raw to me. My mother insisted that my sister and I “try everything” they ordered, and my father would cuff me in the head to get my attention and tell me to “eat all your food.” I evolved a plan through; it involved a conspiracy with my sister because she loved egg fu yung. When my parents were distracted and not looking, we would change plates under the table. This all worked out fairly well until one time when we dropped one of the plates we were exchanging under the table. The food hit the floor and my father hit the ceiling. I was good at ducking, though. Luckily, the waiters and the owner were in fits laughter over this so my father’s temper cooled off fast but my mother made us kids sit through the rest of the meal without ANY more food as well as having to help the waiters picked up the mess.
I complained to my father, asking him why I couldn’t just eat the chow mien, like the pasta we made and ate at home. He told me that he brought me out to a Chinese restaurant so “you can learn” the taste of the way other people make food -- and beside, the Chinese invented pasta too.
He said it was part of history, that about 800 years ago Marco Polo, an Italian merchant, went to China from Europe to Asia along the silk road to trade -- and brought the idea of pasta to Italy and Europe (along with gunpowder).
He went on about this history, lecturing about how food was part of culture and we, as kids, should experience all kinds of food to learn about all kinds of cultures. This lasted about ten minutes, but it still didn’t get me to like egg fu yung -- although a thought pushed itself into my nine year old mind that those Chinese kids I played and “traded” with in the alleys of North Beach and Chinatown for fireworks were my “Silk Road,” and going between North Beach and Chinatown was truly great adventure.