Dangerous Crab

February, 2000

Greetings faithful Februarians! 

(Incidentally, according to Webster's dictionary, the PREFERRED pronunciation of the word describing the second month of the Gregorian calendar is "feb-ROO-air-e". The vernacular "feb-U-air-e" may be common in barrooms, mud drags, media outlets, and local community colleges, but is it not acceptable in either ivy league institutions or my home. Wendy and I disagree about this. Wendy, (the ESL teacher) asserts that the human mouth speaking the English language is not comfortable making the long "ROO" sound right after enunciating the "FEB". She says it sounds like talking in slow motion. However, I firmly believe that if our society is to keep linguistic entropy from reducing our verbal communication to a series of modulated grunts, then we must draw the line somewhere, and this is it. So there!)
Recently, Wendy and I were able to con a relative into babysitting James and Peter, so we could go out for dinner. (Con is an unfair word. Aunt Barbara, a woman of great resolve, patience and childcare skill, agreed to the task in full knowledge of the modus operandi of our offspring. "Lively" is the operative term for our boys. How else can you describe two boys who can leave chalk marks on the ceiling while playing with "legos" on the floor? As babysitters go, Aunt Barbara in a seasoned campaigner.) 
Wendy and I went to the local sit-down Chinese restaurant, where we were offered some incredible examples of authentic Cantonese handwritten menu choices. The two most prominent were "live lobster" and "dangerous crab." (In fairness I must admit that the second choice could have been "dungress crab"). I was seized with trepidation at the thought of finding an angry live crustacean on a plate less than eighteen inches from my face, while having only a table setting and chopsticks to defend myself with. I can't vouch for the rest of humanity, but for me this is not a desirable occurrence in any restaurant, Chinese or otherwise. 
One can only suppose the chain of events that would follow, should a dangerous crab escape from the table in a crowded Oriental establishment. Patrons would leap onto their chairs, yelling and screaming for help, whilst the white-aproned kitchen staff would crawl about the floor with nets and flashlights, looking for the fugitive. The searchers must be cautious here. One misstep might lead to a loud "crunch!" that would indicate to all within earshot that the chase was over, and that the crab would be eminently more docile from this point on. So much for "dangerous crab."
Wendy and I let wisdom prevail, and we ordered a more traditional mainland American\Chinese delicacy-- chicken. Not ordinary chicken, mind you, but "General Tso's Chicken." The general was not in evidence this night, so Wendy and I dined on his entree'. (The general has been a 'no-show' at a lot of places I've been. Perhaps I scare him away.) General Tso's is simply quick fried chicken, to which is added a plum sauce containing a lifetime supply of red pepper and curry. It's a great dish, whose popularity with emergency room staff and throat surgeons is vastly underrated. Wendy and I both enjoy General Tso's, along with it's cousin "sesame chicken," which, when properly prepared, is inflammable.
Speaking of inflammability, one of my more memorable dining experiences entailed a visit to a "fondue" restaurant. Fondue is unique. There is nothing in this world quite like the feeling you get by skewering a piece of meat or veggie or what have you, then immersing it into a pot of boiling oil right in the center of your table. Definitely a dangerous and bloodthirsty sport, I grant you, especially in the event should the pot tip over. Besides that, everybody sitting at the table 'wilts' from the heat. (Imagine if you will-- a small dark room with twenty wobbly tables- each one with a simmering pot of oil in the center. Every table is surrounded by two or three couples, each at a different degree of intoxication, and everybody is trying to engineer a piece of meat onto a tiny fork and into the pot of boiling oil. And they're doing this in the dark, and all at the same time!) 
The one thing that I recall from that sojourn was the fact that after two solid hours over the fondue pot, sampling such tasty substances as "steamed cheese", I was hungrier leaving the restaurant than when I had first arrived! Plus I was about sixty dollars lighter. (Most of that went for insurance I suppose.) It was my only dining experience I had where I needed to make dinner reservations twice in one night (and use both of them.) 
But I digress. We finished our crabless repast and went on to receive the final trophy of the Chinese meal--- the fortune cookie! My cookies contain some very "creative" fortunes. On the average, I find fortune cookies to be pretty blase'; they tend to have statements like: "You have a destiny," or "Romance will find you." My "fortunes" run something along the lines of: "Shoes need feet, as teeth are wings", "Time is a cave with no salt to climb" or "Your last meal will be Chinese" Wendy is wise to this, (she wouldn't believe me if I read the real message) but she is a good sport. Last night's fortune was, "Watch your back." (My motto!)

Next time we may dice with death and order the "dangerous crab." But I feel that my life in outer suburbia is death-defying enough--- even without chopsticks.

Gotta go....... I'd better hurry if I'm gonna catch the flu.


Neil