Saturday, October 24, 2009

Enough with the Carrots!

I've never cared much for cooked carrots. I'm not alone in this. The Interwebs are full of "I hate cooked carrots" stories.

The day after the Berlin wall came down in 1989, the previous Mrs Elliott and I were studying menus in a restaurant in Vienna when an Austrian friend commented that he "abhorred" cooked carrots.

That simple statement somehow made it okay for me to admit my deep and abiding hatred for the cooked root.

Carrots apparently originated in Afghanistan, and made it to Europe -- for reasons unknown to me -- in the 17th century, whereupon either the damn British or the stupid Dutch brought the horrid things here. Spread like athlete's foot in a Turkish bathhouse. Next thing you know, steam tables in schools and penitentiaries were laden with the things and folk were baking them with brown sugar (just in case the cooked carrots weren't sweet enough already).

And that's where matters lay for centuries.

But in the 80s, Americans started demanding that their dishes be sweeter and sweeter, and I noticed a disquieting trend in US restaurants to put carrots (and corn, that cloyingly sweet cereal) into meals that had been just fine without them.

Chinese food, for example. Suddenly the cretins in the kitchen were wokking carrots with everything. I asked a Chinese-born employee whether the food back home in Shanghai had carrots in it. "No, of course not," she said, making an "ick" expression.

The Cantonese-style food in Hong Kong, arguably the finest in the world, has not a trace of the evil root. Pan-Asians had enough sense to stay away from the carrot, recognizing it for what it is: abhorrent.

BEND CONTENT BEGINS

So last night Mrs Elliott (the present one) and I dined at the Hong Kong Restaurant on 3rd. First time we've eaten there.

I ordered chow mein. It's not a dish I normally order, but the place has an old school atmosphere* that took me back to the kitschy Chinese restaurants my parents brought us "for Chinese" in the late 50's and early 60's in pre-Yuppie Napa and Santa Barbara. That was a simpler time and most Americans' only exposure to Chinese cuisine was watered-down Cantonese food. I mean, for heaven's sake, Mom used to bring home goopy chicken chow mein in a can. The crispy noodles were packaged in a separate can. We ate it up and clamored for more!

Back to last night: when the dishes were brought, the sizzling rice soup unfortunately did not sizzle because the rice was not hot enough, but it was the dinner hour and the place was slammed so I can't fault them for that.

But what did I see in my chow mein? Chopped carrots. I was dismayed.

Is this really necessary? Do we have to pitch carrots into everything? It's probably a cheap filler, but it's getting to the point where I have to practice defensive ordering.

"I'll take the oatmeal, please -- they don't put any carrots in it, do they?"

"Let's see . . . how about the four-cheese pizza. Hold the carrots."

Put not cooked carrots in my food, for it is an abomination unto me and maketh me to upchuck a little bit into my mouth.

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* As for the Bamboo Room Lounge in the back, I told Mrs Elliott that she simply has to have her next employee holiday dinner there. It's a must-see.

3 comments:

  1. The Bamboo Room is a classic, but I heard there were plans to remodel it and make it more "upscale." Saints preserve us.

    The only complaint I have about it is they don't know how to make a good Mai Tai. Then again, nobody does but me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Any lounge with video lottery machines in it will never be upscale. The things never class up a joint.

    I reckon there is a distinction between South Pacific "tiki" cocktails and "oriental" lounge drinks. I was wondering what the iconic cocktail for a 50's "oriental" lounge would be -- would you nominate the mai tai?

    ReplyDelete
  3. "I was wondering what the iconic cocktail for a 50's "oriental" lounge would be -- would you nominate the mai tai?"

    I think of the Mai Tai as a tiki bar kind of drink. (It was invented at Trader Vic's.) For a '50s "oriental" lounge, I'm not sure. A Singapore sling maybe?

    ReplyDelete

 
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