You can go to the Peruvian Andes, Lesotho, wherever and there is chinese food. It is so ubiquitous that I’m surprised they can still keep their nation identified with it. You would think it would have splintered into “Rice with Meat” but no… it’s just called “Chinese Food.”
The other weird thing about Chinese food is that it can be really good or really bad but it’s generally impossible to tell anything by looking at it. It all looks the same and costs about the same. Even the taste can be deceptive because they might add tons of MSG, a “flavor enhancer” and very popular ingredient. The Chinese food where I live (Palermo Chico) is three times the price of anywhere else in the Buenos Aires but that has, as you shall find out, nothing to do with the quality.
The first time ate Chinese food in Buenos Aires was at Lysa’s house. Unlike the states, everyone delivers and Porteños prefer ordering out to actually going to restaurants. Though tipping isn’t so common here (5-10%), drinks are expensive and there is frequently a significant cover charge for the table (a la Europe) so it’s usually cheaper and more comfortable to have them bring the food to you for free. Lysa and I ordered Chinese food from this place all the time. It was delicious. Then one rainy night when my parents were visiting we decided to order Chinese food from Lysa’s house. We feel bad about making the folks walk to the house in the rain so we decide to walk the 5 minutes to pick it up ourselves.
When we got there I was surprised; I had been envisioning the place as a nice sit-down restaurant. Instead it there was a single table where you presumably waited for your food to be finished to take away. During the few minutes that we waited for our food to be ready a woman hurredly took orders on the phone while a half-dressed boy of about seven years ran screaming around the room, waving his penis and throwing things. Every so often the woman would ask the customer to hold, look at us, look at the boy, and say “Hey, calm down” and go back to taking orders. We thought it was funny until the boy gave an especially loud yell, looked directly at us, grabbed his penis and began to urinate on a toy of his. The woman on the phone looked at both us and the boy with complete disdain. Somehow even after this incident I continued to order Chinese food, at least up until last week.
Last week, shortly after eating half a plate of Spicy Pork I felt incredibly tired. As I lurched off to bed, I made a quick detour to the bathroom. Which became a longer detour… I felt sick… very sick… and it reminded me of the time when a year ago I had eaten some bad food at a restaurant and had been bedridden for a week with a terrible stomache virus. And for good reason: it was happening again.
Fortunately, I was supposed to be organizing a treasure hunt at work the following day and though I loathed to blow it off, I had no choice. I woke up with a fever of 102F (38.9C) and the hunt was postponed for several days… A doctor came to my house, which was awesome and only cost 12 pesos. Incredible. He was really nice and told me to take some things to bring down the fever. I don’t remember too much about being sick except that Anna took care of me by cooking me mushy things that wouldn’t make me sick for the next few days. Definately the worst thing about being sick is that you’re not well to enjoy it…