Duck Sauce

A young woman called and ordered some fried rice and spring rolls.

“Okay, that will be about 10 minutes,” I said.

“Can you add some duck sauce to that?” she asked.

“No, we don’t have any duck sauce,” I said.

“Can you add something similar to duck sauce?” she asked again.

“I’m sorry ma’am, we aren’t a Chinese restaurant,” I said. Shit. I let the short fuse loose. The girl is only trying to order take-out, I tell myself. It’s only take-out. “But there is a Chinese restaurant just up the street that has some,” I continued in an exaggerated happy voice.

“Thanks! I’ll be there in a few minutes,” she replied.

Saved.

Almost everyone in the front and back of the house, especially Ting, gets offended when people say things like “I’d like some Lo Mein” or “Why don’t you have General Tso’s Chicken on the menu?” Being a confessed Twinkie, I used to shrug it off. I mean, who cares? It all goes to the same place.

But they have a point. After all, I wouldn’t go into an Italian restaurant and order bouillabaisse or try to look for chicken cacciatore on a menu with German fare. Too many of us Americans lump together Asia like it’s all the same, without realizing that they would never do the same for countries in Western Europe. We do the same with Africa.

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I was one of three Korean kids in my entire junior high school class (Come to think of it, one of three minorities total). Not just the kids, but teachers would refer to me as Chinese, Japanese or ask me questions like “Are you related to so-and-so at the Nail Salon by Walmart?” I’d correct them and tell them my real ethnicity, and they’d reply with “Whatever” or “Same thing, right?”

A few months ago, the owner and head chef were interviewed for a review in the Food Section of the local Sunday paper. The article said that they were both from a Thai family and that they were related. They’re actually from Malaysia and the chef is Chinese. This mix-up was amusing to the staff, but the owner and chef were both very hurt by the lack of sensitivity from the reporter.

Being politically courteous to everyone is impossible and I’ll admit that I am terrible at telling apart ethnicities of all colors. I once mistook a lighter-complected African American lady as Hispanic and started speaking Spanish to her because she looked like she was having trouble reading the menu. Shit happens to the best of us, but when politicians can’t tell the difference, that’s when we’re all duck sauce.

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3 Responses to “Duck Sauce”

  1. What I love is when somebody is Hispanic and I start speaking Spanish to them, and they act offended and reply in english, even when they CLEARLY have a Hispanic accent. Uh, ok, sorry I was trying to make you comfortable? It’s an odd little world 🙂

  2. P.S. – I LOVE the name of this blog! Quite original.

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