Anyone who’s avoided Chinese restaurants on account of their ignorance to Chinese table etiquette will take comfort in the story of David R. Chan, a Los Angeles man who’s eaten at over 6,000 Chinese restaurants, but still hasn’t mastered chopsticks. LA weekly reports:
An accountant and attorney by trade, Chan has been keeping a spreadsheet of his culinary conquests since the early 1990s when he bought his first home computer. “When I entered the workforce in the 1970s, that coincided with the rise of what we think of as authentic Chinese food in North America,” Chan says. “As such, my goal was to try every authentic Chinese restaurant in the Los Angeles area at least once.”
It’s a goal that he has consistently kept up with. He keeps a stack of several thousand business cards, menus and credit card receipts. His spreadsheets are organized by name, street and year visited. He has personally witnessed the introduction and spread of Chinese restaurants in Los Angeles from the beginning. The earliest restaurant visit recorded on his spreadsheet? 1951.
There are many ironies. He doesn’t use chopsticks and doesn’t speak Chinese. He has been to Asia just five times. He’s a third-generation American (his paternal Toishanese grandfather immigrated to the United States in 1900). He’s been on a low-carb and low-sugar diet. And he’s never once lived in the San Gabriel Valley [a hispanic/asian enclave near LA].
When asked about his lack of prowess with chopsticks, Chan stated, “I can’t hold them properly. It hasn’t really been a problem, though. Chinese restaurants usually have forks available.”
Though this statement might make these guys want to die just so they can roll in their graves, Chan’s Chinese restaurant conquest proves that no matter how removed some are from their ancestry socially and culturally, they still find ways to keep in touch with their roots.
Trying to conquer 6,000 Chinese restaurants in Shanghai without knowing how to use chopsticks, on the other hand, might be a different story.