The first in a semi-regular series about observations of New York, If it’s not one thing,
takes a wry, sometimes sardonic, piercing and
illuminating (but always modest) look at the snippets of life around us.
Not tonight, General
Tso. I have a headache.
Not a train, bus, or airplane runs on time as expertly as
the lunch specials in some restaurants in my part of town, which is uptown Inwood.
Even the Movado clock across the street from Lincoln Center is off by a few
minutes. But you can set your watch by the timing of the 11:30 to 3:30 pm lunch
specials at these models of efficiency. Sauntering in at 3:40 at my favorite
restaurant is done at your own risk.
watch says 3:35.”
“But I’m a
“But I was just across the street,”
“Doesn’t count. 3:30 is 3:30,” says
the boss, two telephones and a Styrofoam takeout box in hand.
“This is America. Everything runs
on time. The bank closes on time. Time is money.”
I can respect that, plus the spotless
kitchen and waiting area; the large flatscreen cable tv tuned to heavyset Americans
in some part of the country decorated with tattoos and dark sunglasses driving around
in pickup trucks looking for something; plump spare ribs tastier and with more
meat than fancier places downtown; and exquisite chicken dumplings that I once ordered
for eight days in a row and, just found one under my computer.
When the beloved lunch special is
missed by minutes, one is sentenced to choosing from items from six different
columns, numerous color photos, and charming illustrations of farm animals. A tedious process. My favorite depicts a proud rooster, which is not on the menu
but meant to highlight chicken dishes from numbers 71 to 91, including one
named after a daring man who never ate the dish that bears his name, the brave and
fearless General Tso.
The other day, a teenager rushed in,
bills folded in his palm, but 10 minutes late and attempted to argue about the
“Don’t even try it,” I advised wearily. “He’s
When I returned home with a 10-pound plastic bag groaning with ribs, dumplings, soy sauce and duck sauce
packets, and a free soda for ordering
more than $11 (a hearty consolation, I might add), I spread this late lunch feast
out over my entire kitchen table and cracked open a fortune cookie.
“Someday everything will make
perfect sense,” I read.
Labels: Chinese takeout, dumplings, Inwood, lunch specials, spare ribs