What America Tastes Like

My Review of All Chinese Buffets and being human

This began as a review of a specific Chinese buffet I’d tried, but the rather Tao-ish approach I took grew and grew and then I laughed.

Grab a plate. As you slide past the steam trays of life’s experiences, may the tenacity of your hunger carry you through the drudgery and pain.

You will rise one day and fall the next. Get another plate.

In darkness is a nugget of light. The worst buffet will have one palatable dish. Yang within Yin, and the inverse.

May the spirit of your curiosity lift you each time you tumble into a puddle of grody slop.

In this way, your mind will remain open to the morsels of greatness that lie hidden between despairs.

Teriyaki Chicken – If you ordered it from a place that specialized in teriyaki, you would eat the whole thing and throw the styrofoam box in the trash and never think of it again.

Sometimes the expected is not good enough.

Stuffed Shrimp – These looked like shrimp tails protruding from clumps of grainy cookie dough. They tasted like lumps of rotting sausage mixed with grits, and were reprehensible.

Appearances offer only themselves.

Pineapple Shrimp – Usually labeled “coconut shrimp.” One time you saw what appeared to be a softball-sized hunk of mayonnaise sitting unmelted on top of these in the steam trap. Here, they put a bit of pineapple in it. It is fried shrimp in creamy and vaguely-sweet goo, so it made up the majority of at least four of my plates.

Learn your wheelhouse.

Mongolian Beef – More often than not, it should be called “Lighter Fluid Beef.” Not at the Panda Bear in Georgia, but to expect the flavor of carmelized onions harmonizing with surprisingly good beef, is folly.

Recognize not the appearance, but the smell of failure.

Pecan Chicken – This glows a flourescent yellow color beyond that of even Kraft macaroni. That chromatic instensity caught my attention. The flavor had a pleasant and indefinable nutty taste that sure didn’t come from pecans. Two bites had a kernel of something tough that tasted like cat food, but this added to the sense of adventure.

Keep the mouth open to new experience, and a napkin to spit in close by.

Peanut Butter Chicken – Let’s say a friend held up a plate, told you in a loud and clear voice:

“Eat this chicken. After breading it with a savory batter and frying it, I have dipped it in peanut butter. The fried chicken is swimming in melted peanut butter mixed with sugar for you to put in your mouth.”

Most people would tell their friend this was a bad idea and possibly illegal. Yet here among the bright colors of glossy chicken and many meatchunks-trapped-in-amber, you will excuse yourself and eat it.

Make your own reasons for indulgence.

Chicken Tenders – If you’re ten years old, head over to the salad section and grab some ranch for these. Will bacon bits to stick to the ranch?

Either try something new, or discover something new about the familiar.

Crab Rangoon – The wrapper tasted like paper. The filling has an off-taste, and may be comprised of nondairy creamer mixed with cream cheese. There is no crab whatsoever.

Labels may serve only to distract from truth.

Honey Chicken on a Stick – The delicious “browned” flavors of a nicely executed Malliard reaction play well against the sweetness, which is pleasant. These may be rats.

Question goodness lightly.

Vanilla Ice Cream – At some point in life, you learn that the “ice cream machine” in a Chinese buffet is simply a form of decoration. Through watery consistency and bland repetition, this machine will help to teach you about expectation and failure if you still try it every time like I do.

Only by expecting to be offered no desserts whatsoever, could the desserts of a Chinese buffet be truly appreciated.

In this way, appreciate the ease and joy as it arrives within life.

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