by Meenakshi Ramamurthy
RONALD TUTOR CAMPUS CENTER – At their usual post basketball Thursday lunch, sophomore forestry major Daniel Chen told his Asian-American counterparts that’d he’d “catch up later” and was seen sliding into line at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center’s Panda Express.
While waiting his turn, Chen smiled awkwardly at known white-girl-who-likes-Asian-stuff, Megan Thomas. The pair made idle conversation about the new additions to the Panda menu: Beijing Beef, Firecracker Chicken Breast, and Shanghai Angus Beef, that Chen knew, according to Megan, “a little too well.”
When confronted about this, Chen accepted that this lunch was probably not part of the cultural enrichment his parents imagined when they immigrated to America, working tirelessly to pay for his private school tuition, but that he had bigger things to consider like, “whether noodles or rice went better with Sweet Fire Chicken.”
Breaking his reverie, an employee that Chen himself described as “definitely less Asian than me”, put out a fresh wok of Kung Pao, and it was all Chen could do to keep from salivating.
As decision time drew near, Chen was overcome with anxiety at all the glistening choices before him and caved, as suspected, meekly uttering only, “Orange Chicken.”
Then, when asked what his carb pairing would be, the fluent Cantonese speaker consciously garbled the pronunciation of 撈麵, discarding the intricacies of tonal diphthongs and consonant distinctions in favor of the anglicized version of the term pronounced, “Low Main.”
Finally, Chen quickly devoured the interpretation of a once complex cultural cuisine that his ancestors literally spent thousands of years perfecting now reduced to a gallon of indistinguishable red-brown vinegar glaze over various deep-fried meats.
His intense satiation garnered curious glances from other students, but Chen, owning up to his lunch choice commented fearlessly to onlookers, “at least it was cheaper than Lemonade.”