“Rigsby, can’t we just go to this Chinese restaurant? What difference does it make? We’re in Chinatown, it’s all going to be Chinese food.”
The woman who’s come up to us on the street looks at him expectantly and repeats that we should come to her restaurant.
“It’s very good,” she says, “Dim Sum all day,” she says.
I look at Rigsby pleadingly. I’m so hungry and the little man is getting so heavy. We’ve been playing this game for over half an hour. Rigs will run up a hill into one restaurant and come flying back out shaking his head and mumbling in his British accent, “no no no,” then he does it again…and again.
G has turned it into a game: Nanny Rigsby disappears. G says, ‘Where Rigby?’ I say, ‘I don’t know.’ Then all six foot two of him comes barreling out onto the street again, red faced and blustery and G points to him and yells, ‘Rigby! Rigby!’
He’s not hard to spot since he has bright white hair and has only brought 2 shirts with him from England for his entire 10 day trip. The green and white striped one he’s wearing now has pretty much burned itself into G’s brain, so much so, that a week after Rigs left, G saw a tall man with white hair wearing a striped shirt in a museum and said, ‘Oh! Rigby? Rigby?’
“Oh, all right,” Rigs relents, “go on.” We follow the woman into her restaurant and Nanny takes one look and turns around shaking his head, “NO NO NO.”
The woman chases after him yelling, “It’s very good! Dim Sum all day!”
“NO! NO thank YOU!”
“Nanny! What just happened there?” I ask.
“I won’t be plucked off the street and forced to eat overpriced Chinese food in a room full of Westerners.”
“Westerners? What’s wrong with Westerners??? This is the west!!! We’re in the west!”
“What you’ve got to do,” he pauses to make sure I am paying very close attention, “is find a place where Dim Sum is ONE dollar per item and there have to be loads of Chinese people eating there.”
“Ok. Well…do you think you could do that by yourself tomorrow? Because I need…”
“HANG ON!” he yells out as he bolts across the street and nearly gets run over by a trolly car.
“I don’t know sweetheart. I’m contemplating never knowing again.”
I’m stranded again for another 4 minutes…at least.
“OH E-LIZ-BETH,” I finally hear from the distance. I look across the street and as the cars clear I see Nanny, eyes wide, face gleaming. He’s a new man. He meets me halfway across the street and mumbles what I can only describe as the following…
‘NOW! garble garble not alarmed garble garble not posh garble only a counter gerble gerble brilliant girble girble won’t cost anything garble garble NOW, blahdee blahdee don’t serve beer blahdee gerble blah bring in beer blurbadee gerbledy blah corner shop bladee bladee bla dee blah Wait here!’
“I DON”T KNOW!”
5 minutes go by, maybe 6, when suddenly Rigs comes flying out of a shop and around the corner. He whizzes past me with what I can only assume is a bag full of beer. He stops and looks over his shoulder at me.
“Well come on! What are you waiting for?”
He honestly just asked me that.
I follow him into a tiny little shop. Inside are Rigsby’s requirements…a dry erase board listing the day’s items and pricing, none more than a dollar…and Chinese people. There are six wooden tables, fluorescent lights and not a drop of decoration or ambiance. But the smell…the smell is amazing. The woman behind the counter wears a flowered apron and is buried behind mountains of bamboo steamers. Nanny drops his two 22oz bottles of Tsingtao on our table.
“These were three dollars each,” he brags.
Then he heads up to the counter to start some sort of negotiations while I take a seat. G is already settled in. He has chopsticks to play with and has made friends with everyone in the room.
Nanny brings back a mountain of Dim Sum: some seaweed soup, shrimp dumplings, veggie dumplings, pork buns, rice steamed in lotus leaves all day, something with sesame seeds in it. At first I thought it was all delicious because I was ravenous, but then I realized it was delicious because it was the most authentic Chinese food I have ever had. I enjoyed it so much I wanted dessert and tea as well. I receive a fresh, strong black tea and the woman behind the counter makes me get a sesame paste roll, a duck egg roll, and a husband cookie. When I say I just want one thing, she says, “Chinese food is cheap, you’ll take 3.”
Feeling completely sated it was easier for me to admit that Nanny was right.
“It feels like we could be in China right now,” he says. I agree. It was one of those rare meals that makes you feel like you just absorbed a piece of another culture. Then our new friend behind the counter brings out this huge freshly baked sponge cake. I don’t know what it’s made of…but she gives us a piece as a gift. It is so good, I ask her if I can buy a piece to take home with me. She says, “Yes, but you want to buy two pieces.”
Our whole meal was $15.00.