We all want to go out on the town and have amazing food experiences. We want the food to be delicious, the service to be on point, and the people we are communicating with to be engaging and friendly. When this happens it’s so fantastic, you can put it in your ‘great eating experiences’ basket and take the memory with you as you continue happily on your way.
Sometimes though, this isn’t the case. Sometimes things don’t quite work out the way you anticipated. This can be disappointing, or, depending on the company and the circumstances, it can create a fantastic memory. One that you may think back on with even more fondness than the success stories. It is these less than perfect memories that I like to call ‘Beautiful disasters’. They are failures, and you love them, in a way, even more for that reason.
I had one such beautiful disaster a few weekends ago. It was the London Chinese New Year celebrations in central London. I had made plans to meet a friend and go to Chinatown to check out what was happening and grab some lunch. The place was rammed, people shoving you out of the way so dragons could go dancing past. Others trapping you in a Taiwanese jelly tea shop so same said dragon (or probably a different one) could rip a cabbage down from the doorway, tear it to shreds and throw it all over the footpath (I didn’t really get that bit actually). Everything was generally chaotic. The restaurants too.
“Lets go and get Japanese” my friend says sensibly. “Noooooo!” I reply, “it’s Chinese New Year, we have to eat Chinese today!!”. She cringes, and shrugs, but aquiesces, and we join the queue for one of the resaurants. We get seated fairly quickly, there is only two of us after all. We have decided to order some dim sum.
The first one that arrives is supposedly ‘Taro’, but to me it is like munching on a crunchy dry birds nest. I’m not sure what’s inside either. I though it would be vegetarian, but it tastes sort of meaty, and at the same time, also not. Actually, it tastes of ‘indeterminate origin’ and when I call the waiter over to ask him what’s inside his response is *shrug*. So, I guess i’m eating a birdsnest full of *shrug*. Okay then.
The crispy duck is pleasant enough but fairly standard, as is the salt and pepper fried asparagus, which seems to me at least, the most recognizable of the dishes.
We finish off with a pumpkin and taro dim sum. It is sticky, and sweet. Kind of doughy. It sticks to our plates and our teeth. The roof of my mouth. I feel like a greyhound that has just been fed a toffee. Uncoordinated, and discombobulated. Looking slightly confused, and mildly miserable, in the way only a greyhound can.
At this point we are both laughing. A lot. ”What did we just eat?” my friend asks me “I mean seriously, I have no idea what i’ve just eaten, I don’t feel good, I think i’m gonna die”. Honestly, I’m feeling a little guilty. I was the one after all, that insisted we get Chinese, despite logically knowing it was too chaotic a day to find the best Chinese food experience. It has been a disaster, a sort of beautiful one, but a disaster all the same. “I know what we need” she says. “We need to clean out our systems, to kill the germs, I don’t feel good and I really don’t want to die”.
Minutes later we are outside and running through the crowds. Or arms are linked so as not to lose each other and we are fighting our way towards our next destination which shines out at us like a beacon in the distance. Eventually, we make it. With no time to lose we burst through the doors of the Irish pub down the street. “Over here! It’s an emergency!!” I say to the girl behind the bar, she looks at me quizzically, it’s 1.30pm. “I’ll have two Tequilas please!!” Within moments they are placed in front of us. Lick the salt, feel the burn of the booze, suck the lemon.
“That’s better” my friend says “I feel so much better”. She smiles at me and throws her chewed lemon peel in to her now empty shot glass. “I think we’re gonna live”.