Friday, July 18

They Tried To Do A Renovation, I said No, No, No.

I headed over to my local inexpensive Chinese place the other day, eager to partake of their 4.95 lunch special. The chicken with hot pepper and peanut is a particular favorite of mine, and they make the best at Guo's.

Imagine my shock and awe when I approached the rather shabby storefront and saw a sign proclaiming "Closed for Renovation". Inside a couple of workmen were mulling over some blueprints while a circular saw whined nearby.

It was clear. Change was in the air, and a single thought immediately leaped into my head.

I shamefully prayed they hadn't discarded the oil from the deep fryer.

Countless battered chicken wings, breaded baby shrimp, and thickly crusted egg rolls had made that oil just a bit less viscous than a good quality 10W30, yet somehow it had mystically retained the spirit of all that had fried before. Whatever was placed in that oil emerged with a wonderful flavor of all it's past denizens.

It makes my mouth water just to think about it.

I noticed the owner standing by the window looking in. I walked over and asked, "Guo? What's going on?"

"Had to make renovation. Inspector say so."

"Inspector?", I asked, shocked. "Not the health inspector?"

"No, no", he said, sounding a bit offended. "Building inspector. Bad floor."

"Ah," I said, as if I knew something about bad floors.

After a decent interval had passed I had to ask, "What about the, um, er,..."

"The oil?" said Guo, knowingly.

"Oil?" I said, trying to sound nonchalant. "What oil?"

"You twenty-fifth customer to ask today. Oil fine. I keep in back. Soon as renovation over, oil go back in fryer."

I breathed an inner sigh of relief. Maybe not so inner, as Guo said, "You happy now?"

"Yes, very happy. How long until you open again?"

"One week."

I silently damned the building inspector. One week without chicken with hot pepper and peanut? A grim prospect. Very grim prospect.

I walked glumly over a couple of blocks to the another Chinese restaurant that I had noticed but never used. A bright, teenage girl stood behind the counter wearing a crisp white apron. "May I take your order?" she perked.

As I spoke she noted each item on a neatly lined notepad. When I was finished she asked "Would you like an egg roll with that?"

"I don't know. Are they any good?"

"They should be," she smiled happily. "We just changed the oil today."

Wednesday, July 9

Ham And Eggs

I was talking to my dad the other day and asking him what it was like when he was growing up. He'll be celebrating his 84th birthday in a couple of weeks which means he was born in 1924, which means he was 10 years old in 1934, the midst of the Great Depression. I was wondering how those times compared with our current economic problems.

He thought for a moment. "My father used to say 'If we had ham we'd have ham and eggs. If we had eggs.'" Dark humor from his father (my Grandfather) who I always remember as a pretty happy-go-lucky guy. Family legend has it that he spent some time as a bootlegger and I remember him telling stories about how he would outrun "The Feds" by speeding through the woods in an old Model T Ford. And on those occasions when I went riding with him he often demonstrated the prowess needed to lose a persistent Treasury agent.

If we had ham we'd have ham and eggs.

If we had eggs.

For my father, I guess, that sums up the Great Depression.

These days it's considered a hardship to pay four and a half dollars a gallon for gas while fretting about how to lose those last stubborn fifty pounds.

Certainly that's a problem, but not quite as serious as worrying about where your next meal is going to come from.

I've heard stories of people filling up their tanks at the gas station and taking off from the pump without paying. Just floor it and head for the woods.

Grandpa would be so proud.

By 1944 my father was in basic training on his way to earning a Purple Heart at Saipan.

I haven't heard him complain about the price of gas lately.