Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Best Rester & Spicy Eggplant

Ate dinner last night with two of my sisters at a Seattle Chinese restaurant -- Tai Tung -- and found out that it's been continuously open since 1935. I doubt they've updated the interior since then. What an odd, funky place it is. I first ate there 40 years ago, and nothing -- NOT A THING -- has changed. The daily specials are written up in Chinese on typing paper and taped to the mirror behind the counter -- there are probably twenty specials posted. The English version is farther down the hall, taped to the outside of a booth. There's a musty scent interlaced with the amalgamated Chinese Restaurant Scents -- ginger? Soy? Rice? Our waiter was perhaps 80, nattily attired in black slacks, a white dress shirt and sweater, and with a heavy accent gave recommendations from the specials board. He claimed to remember us -- it's been at least a year, since the three of us ate there last -- but I don't doubt him. The lighting is startling bright, and the absence of any music makes it an eavesdropping heaven, although I'd venture to say that the conversation between the three of us made for some good listening for someone else, if anyone else felt so inclined.

At one point in the meal, I read aloud a hand-written letter from 1972 that my sister K. wrote to me when I spent two weeks with a friend at her grandparent's house in Twisp -- a rural town in Eastern Washington. Written on neon yellow notebook paper in my sister's precise eleven-year-old's handwriting, it described in detail a tiff she'd gotten into with another sister over the throwing-away of a wire twisty-thing that closes up a loaf of bread. Drama! Another description of a boat trip to Victoria B.C., and the joy in the freedom of being allowed to wander freely aboard the Princess Marguerite.

I produced a second letter (both plucked randomly from my recent excavations) written by the other sister present -- M. -- typed from her desk at her job at Boeing, written the same week as K.'s letter, describing, among other things, K.'s day-trip to Victoria! I don't know what the odds are that I'd grab two letters -- from a load of crap primarily headed to the recycling bin -- that date back to the same week in 1972. And trust me, these were in boxes of assorted paper stuff dating in my history from age zero to twenty. No organization other that the fact that it was all made of paper.

And based on the laughs that these letters generated, I'm glad I save them. My question now, of course is whether or not to throw them out. Neither sister wanted her letter back. Toss?

Among my findings was a sackful of school assignments belonging to K. of which I somehow gained possession. Good sport that she is, she promptly donned her "Best Rester" crown from kindergarten:

The waiter's handwriting on the bill both fascinated and amused me -- was that really what we ordered?!

And who could possibly argue over such stunningly beautiful hieroglyphics? Certainly not us. Dinner at Tai Tung is always a bargain, musty odor notwithstanding.

And I have for lunch today some lovely leftover sizzling rice soup.


  1. Speaking as the self-appointed Queen of de-cluttering, do NOT get rid of those letters. Slide them, together into an appropriate book and leave for some later-reader to discover. These are the precious things T.

    Chinese restaurants...how I love them. Our closest Chinatown is Toronto (60 miles away), so only when we get up to town can we indulge. It's usually dim sum at Rol San where the 'tablecloths' are multi-layers of white plastic that is gathered by the four-corners when you are finished and toted away...full of food, dishes, glasses, teapots...
    and the decor...everything from posters for disneyworld to old master imitations. I love the place.
    Love that you and your sisters had fun. Sisters are precious.

  2. What a great blog post. Please keep those letters safe!

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  4. I'm sure I've had the third one down. I'm a huge fan of CHEAP Chinese restaurants; I find the fancy (pricey) ones rather pretentious.

    Yes you must keep the letters. I think you've just voted yourself the family archivist!!

  5. 'Best Rester' - how wonderful! Would that resting was considered as much of achievement at fifty (or so) as it was when we in kindergarten?

    Do keep your sisters' letters, T. (I'm facing the same sort-toss-keep dilemmas as you are at the moment. It takes stamina and willpower to reduce those piles of papers. I'm tending towards keeping letters and tossing old study notes.).

    If I ever get to Seattle, your Chinese restaurant will be difficult to resist.

  6. Ah! I've had many memorable meals at Tai Tung since the early 70s. The rumor was always that you had to be able to read the Chinese menu to get the truly best food. Never thought about asking - DOH!