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THE GREAT FOODINI: Awkward Encounter – Gulf Coast Cuisine

by The Great Foodini

Going out to eat during my lunch hour at work is my daily routine. I gather up one or two colleagues and we try to escape to an oasis of culinary delights to break up either the stress or monotony of the day.

On one particular day, I decided to bring one of my colleagues out to eat with me. We go together often. He is quick witted and is a fellow Roll Tide fan…those are somewhat rare here.

He is a large black man. I have noticed that sometimes we get contemplative looks when we are out and about together. Not hateful or anything, just people noticing the amusing contrast of his dark skin and muscular build versus my pasty white skin that seems to stretch across my ever-growing dad bod. To give you an idea of how white I am, I will put it this way. I am pretty sure that back in 2011 when I stayed out all night in Yosemite National Park photographing the waterfalls at full moon, not only was my glow a source of light to other photographers to be able to check their camera settings, but I also received a hefty set of moon burns…kinda like a lunar ricochet sunburn.

But enough of me and inability to produce any melanin, I am here to talk about the fateful day when we walked into Chopstick just North of the railroad tracks in Long Beach along Railroad Street.

One thing I like to see in a Chinese buffet like Chopstick are actual Chinese people. I realize that this is not any sort of indicator of authenticity or original recipes from the homeland. I realize that most of these people who own the buffets have keen senses of business acumen that has evolved to suit the American dad bod taste palate. I won’t go too much into describing the buffet, which is very nice and is very well priced. My favorite item is the crab casserole and I usually try to stuff as many gyoza (pot stickers) down my gullet as possible.

No…we aren’t discussing the food today. Today I want to talk about awkward lunches. On this particular day, my friend and I sat down for a white-knuckled eat-a-thon. As we began to slow down on our third round and the shame of our gluttony was creeping up my spine, a Chinese lady came out of the back of the restaurant and screamed NICCA as she pointed at my friend.

Startled, I looked at my friend and said “Oh my God, did that just happen? This has never happened to me before…what do we do?”

He looked at me and began belly laughing because of the shock on my face. He said, “I don’t know. It’s never happened to me either.”

Then the lady began rapid fire screaming NICCA NICCA NICCA loudly. Annoyed and embarrassed, we decided to not make a scene and just pay and leave.

On the way back to work, we were just shocked, driving in silence…then I remember my days of taking Mandarin classes at the Pacific Grove Adult School at night in order to find any reason to stay away from my awful wife (ex).

So, I pulled out my handy dandy smart phone and asked, “What mandarin word sounds like the “N” word?”

Google took a second and then said NICCA, which means that/this or that one. Upon learning this, I remembered another Chinese girl behind us at the restaurant who was picking up boxes and moving them to the storage in the back of the building. The lady was simply just telling her colleague to get that box….

This event happened more than two years ago and we are still laughing about that day and we always refer to it as the racist Chinese buffet…tongue-in-cheek of course.

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