Saturday, June 18, 2016

Food Reviewed: Noodles

I am going to try and write about noodles because I don't know how to write about Orlando. I don't know what to say. I feel gutted but who am I to talk? I went to the vigil in Soho and cried helplessly when the London Gay Men's Chorus sang 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' and I gave money to the Pulse Victims Fund but I can't change America's insane gun laws or, it feels like, do much to end entrenched homophobia. Has Obama addressed the nation after mass shootings fifteen or eighteen times? How is that a question? If Sandyhook wasn't enough then what could be? It is perfectly obvious that the world cares less about queer Latinx than white children but neither tragedy changes anything. They are just two more testaments to the anger and violence that human beings are capable of directing at each other.

I had been meaning to go to Silk Road in Camberwell for years. Two or three. And I love that one of London's most applauded Chinese restaurants doesn't have a website. I don't think I've ever linked to TripAdvisor before but needs must. Luckily there is an easily accessible phone number because booking is essential; the restaurant is always packed and noisy and even when you book time slots are only an hour. At a capital R Restaurant I would find this outrageous - I want to be able to take my time and savour my pleasures; the joys of dining out aren't limited to food on plates but conversation and appreciation etc. - but I have never successfully lingered over Chinese food so I can't complain. I invariably inhale noodles and shower the surrounding areas in grease and splatter marks. I can do that in twenty minutes, I don't even need the full hour.

I keep saying Chinese but I understand that Chinese food doesn't really exist any more than Chinese does as a language. I don't know much more than that. I can't meaningfully distinguish between Cantonese and Sichuan food or, at least, not with much confidence. I would like to learn but a few years ago I asked a friend to take me out for "authentic" Chinese and it rather put me off the fine regional distinctions. She is Singaporean rather than Chinese but she is better informed than me and she took me somewhere near Liverpool St, to a place where I was the only Caucasian in the restaurant. This didn't put me off, quite the opposite, but the ducks' tongues did put me off. They're so springy and gristly? Why do they have bones in them? My tongue doesn't have a bone, does it? (I have Googled and am now satisfied that my tongue doesn't have a bone in it - the hyoid doesn't really count/doesn't alarm me.)

I didn't enjoy the fried pig tendons we sampled but the eye-watering salt content disguised a lot. No, it was the ducks' tongues that had me steering away from dangerous, unpredictable non-Anglicised Chinese food for a few years. (I'm just going to have to keep saying 'Chinese food' because I don't have the knowledge/vocab to be more accurate.) They were not For Me. Which is fine. Not everything has to be for me and it would be ridiculous to hold historic and national cuisines to account for my personal taste. Also, it is totally hypocritical on my behalf since I love a crispy duck pancake and I believe, deeply and rationally, in snout-to-tail eating. I applaud those who can eat and enjoy ducks' tongues. I feel like morally I should be able to as well but the textures really do make me feel queasy.

I feel guilty about not knowing more about Chinese history and culture. And African history and culture. And South American history and culture. I have never studied any of these formally, despite taking history until I was eighteen and getting a Good Degree from a Good University (albeit not in history), and I haven't done enough to educate myself about them. I know quite a lot about the Nazis' rise to power and the works of Jane Austen but I couldn't tell your Tang from your Quing dynasty.

Maybe I can accept that nobody can know everything about everything (MAYBE) but ignorance seems to be so close to the heart of so much hatred. We only have a garbled picture of the shooter's 'motivations' and, probably, they'll never be explicable but it seems impossible to me that you could kill so many people in cold blood if you understood them, knew them, comprehended their existence. Like, clearly people kill people they know intimately every day - domestic violence is often cited among the leading causes of death for young women - but maybe that is just another failure of understanding? The failure to see women and queer people and people of colour as people at all.

Atrocities are perpetrated around the globe daily. Orlando knocked me out because it felt (feels) personal. More personal than the Parisian attacks although I had family in that city. I didn't have to wait anxiously for text confirmation that cousins were safe in Florida; I didn't have to scan lists or photogalleries of the dead for friends of friends. I have become almost inured to the random attacks, the bomb blasts. In theory, if not practice, I almost accept them as the cost of modern life. I was in London for the 7/7 attacks and though, remarkably really, the city hasn't been bombed since then the possibility looms large. Living in a global capital the risk is always there. I live with the threat of explosions, fire and collapse but if you flinched at every loud noise or backpack you would go mad. Still, low-flying planes make me nervous.