It was a rainy day in exotic Cathay when my friends and I hauled ourselves out of the torrents and into the waiting arms of Princess Wu Fan – a bistro hard on the banks of the famed Xihu. We didn’t know what we were in for, at once starving and suspicious of what the inscutable matron of the den might pitch our way, but throwing our luck to the wind and thumbing our noses at Uncle Cholera, we settled in for an afternoon of gustatory diversion.
Shedding our rain slicked Goretex Birettas and Yak-skin slickers with full lining and multiple inside pockets, we fell exhausted into the Deluxe Canvas Covered Tall Back Chairs that would feel at home in any of the bodegas from Berlin to Burma that you might stumble into. Greeted at our table it was clear that our hostess was a 100 pounds of dynamite and we were packing matches. Waterproof matches that is, presented in their own mu-metal tin with o-ring sealed screw on lid and wearproof strike patch embossed on the surface in a Paleo-Mexican Indian motif.
First on the agenda – Fish Head Soup, like none I have had since the time I was chased bound and gagged from that little hole in the wall in Macao. The fish head floated languidly on the surface of the enticing gray broth – beckoning me back to my days in the paddies along the Mekong. I chowed down instantly using my five-part folding Stainless Steel Portable Camping Utensil with matching eel skin pouch and deluxe nano-tube carbon fiber carabineer clip.
Next up – Inside Parts of a Duck Soup – never has a feathered friend offered so much with so little complaint. The unidentifiable avian organs sloshing about with gusto in my cloisonne Madagascar Personal Soup Bowl.
Just when we thought we’d summited Mt. Gourmand, another steaming cauldron appeared, this one bearing a heaping mass of Spam rectangles engaged in a do or die battle with little black-eyed shrimps. Amidst a carnage of cabbage, the tide seemed to be turning in favor of the little crustaceans instead of the manufactured mammal byproducts representing our dominance as the Patriarchs of the Planet. Plunging in with my two-piece Texas Combination Serving Spoon and Bar-be-que Fork, I topped my bowl and thus disrupted the timbre of the battle sending the little pink buggers back to their place on the bottom of the sea (or in this case, bowl.)
A heaping plate of Chinese Tater Tots went down easily, warming the cockles of my heart and while looking similar, sadly offering none of the hallucinogenic properties of those mushrooms consumed on the night of the Summer Solstice long ago in a small Oaxacan village hugging the side of an extinct strato-volcano, deep in the banana forest of southern Mexico. Who knows where that story might have ended were it not for my pocket-sized Natural Polyester Survival Blanket and inflatable Personal Pillow with Chamois Case.
Visiting the live side of the dining room, I was transported back to another casino cum aquarium I’d visited on another trip to the Orient, long, long ago. This place, devoid of my amphibian friends, concentrated more on the denizens of the littoral – squishy little things you only recall stepping on during those febrile dreams that come with every visit of Mother Malaria, caught unintentionally as I plied the vine tangled back waters of Brunei. Luckily I was wearing my Lapland Gum Rubber Mukluks which easily repelled the saline slop, keeping my 100% Genuine Nepalese Mohair Trekkers Socks, dry and toasty. “Dui, Dui, Dui” I yelled as the fishmongers tried to fill my Waxed Cotton and Nylon Ripstop Messager Bag in Darkest Khaki with the contents of their fecund pools.
Streaking towards the door and a one-way ticket out of this twisted nightmare, I paused only to gather up my 100% money back guaranteed outerwear and to thank Lili, our guide for the wonderful selections on today’s menu. Another “Authentic Chinese Lunch” little more than a grumble in my warm and happy belly.