Dim Sum – a zero-sum on the tum-tum


I found myself in a unique gathering of new friends today at the Hong Kong Restaurant in the Outer Sunset area of SF dining on Dim Sum among 10 other Cantonese-speaking folks who work at City College of San Francisco with me.  It was a delightful noon meeting at a location that no one knew the address to, so I found myself walking up and down a street loaded with Chinese restaurants hoping that I would find my party.

The week before, I was invited by my friend who is one of the custodians of the building I teach in at the college, and with whom I have a lot of fun when we both run about working hard in the late evenings. We were saying “goodbye” for Spring Break when she stopped back by my office and asked me to join her and friends “next week for Dim Sum”.  She has a thick accent, so I wanted to be sure I understood correctly:  “You want me to join you for Dim Sum next week?”  “Yes!” she said excitedly.   So, how could I say no?  It would be a lovely meeting of new faces, and I knew that I would be ensconced in an excellent culture of food and language – completely lost, but in the best kind of learning.  I gave her my card with my cell phone on it, and she said, “I call you.”.

Four days into Spring Break, I received a wonderful text from her filled with great self-made emoticons and a fun invitation to join them on Friday (2 days later) at Young Hua in the Sunset on Noriega at 32nd Ave.  I sent a text back that I would be happy to join them there at noon on Friday.

Around 11:30a on Friday, I was ready to head out and tried to look up an actual address.  I could find no restaurant on the planet, let alone the Sunset district of SF, named Young Hua.  Uh-oh.  I sent her a text that I was on my way but didn’t know exactly where, just that it’s in the area of Noriega and 32nd Ave. I got a callback, “I’m not sure but will call you when I get there and tell you.”   Oh.  OK.  So, I set out, intrepid explorer of the food continuum to find my party of I didn’t know how many.  I walked around Noriega between 30th and 33rd twice, hoping that I would somehow find the group among no fewer than 29 Dim Sum restaurants, none of which are named Young nor Hua. I walked both sides of the street, slowly trolling by every restaurant looking hungrily into the windows at the food offerings.

In the second wrap around the two blocks, I heard, “Dana, over here!”  She waved her arms from across the other corner.  “Stay there!  It behind you!”  I looked up at Hong Kong Restaurant on the corner of 33rd Ave at Noriega.  YAY!  Food at last.  But first, the greeting of the numerous friends of hers who began to arrive.  All laughed at the fact that NO ONE knew where to go as they had all been given the same cryptic location with the wrong name and no address. Then, one after one, we were introduced as each seemed surprised to see me.  “I never see you at City College,” one exclaimed with a bright smile. Yan stepped in to say something quick in Cantonese that had the word “teacher” in it.  “Oh!”  The group stepped back to eye me up and down.  “Where do you teach?” one asked.  I told them about the Broadcast department on the Ocean campus.  I heard a flurry of Cantonese back and forth among them with the word Broadcast thrown in here and there.  Suddenly the door to the restaurant opened and they insisted that I walk in first.  But, I didn’t want to.  They knew the drill. The place was filled with Chinese families who all knew the drill and I really wanted to follow because I don’t really know the drill.  They wouldn’t allow that. So sweet and kind, they were, making me walk first and then take first every time a new dish came up on our table to share. Thank goodness I know how to hold chopsticks properly.  There was no other utensil in sight. I was also given the menu first.  It was in Chinese with a tiny description of 3 – 4 words beneath the characters in a 4-point font.  Oh, boy.  Here we go.  I thought to myself:  “Please Lord, no snouts, feet, nor innards I would never, ever eat.  Please let this meal contain regular meat or none at all.”  At least I didn’t have to order aloud; I could simply mark a chart. PHEW.  I didn’t want to disappoint anyone with my order, so I picked a number of different things.

Then came the fun, laughter, pouring of tea, food ordering, pouring of more tea (10x plus)  and everyone having a jolly good time.  Our table grew to 11 people.  When the Durian dish arrived, the table became quiet suddenly.  Uh oh.  Among the 20 things we all ordered, I asked for the Durian turnovers for us.  Everyone looked around and someone asked in Cantonese, who ordered the Durian?  Yan pointed at me.  I smiled.  {inside head:  oh, no. What the F is Durian?}  Alas, it’s a dish that only half the population likes, the other half hates it as it has a very strong smell and taste.  I wondered what animal part it was as I took the first offering since all plates on the Lazy Susan centerpiece landed in front of me first.  Once I took mine, 1/2 the table grabbed at theirs and the other half kept that Lazy Susan turning past them, nose in the air.  Which team was I on?  I think they all wanted to know as laughter picked up again while I took a sniff and thought it was kinda cool and then a bite.  YUM!  3 of them raised hands in the air – the teacher chose the Durian! I was then given two more bites of it as they ordered more.  I now know (thankfully) that “Durian is a fruit of several fruit species belonging to the genus Durio. There are 30 recognized Durio species, at least nine of which produce edible fruit.” (THIS is why I donate to Wikipedia every year, folks.  Whose family Encyclopedia would have a listing for Durian?)

We chatted more. Well, me mostly listening, smiling, and eating with a once-in-a-while translation from Yan or the only male who joined this group of chatty females (the husband of one of the CCSF staff) who worked for MUNI.  He and I spoke off and on about various and sundry things.  His English was very good and he was so sweet about making sure that I was in on the conversation when Yan was busy fussing over tea pours and making sure our immediate half of the table had enough on our plates. At one point after one of my last bites, someone had brought up an excited chat about pigs feet and chicken feet though nothing we ate in that meal was anything other than root vegetables, fruits and a little bit of “regular” meat in one or two things.  Thank the heavens for that…I didn’t need to know that end of the conversation and was happy to not know about what they were saying save for Yan telling me secretly that she felt that the feet of chicken are not good for you, health-wise.  They step in things, and medicine too, that the chickens are given.  I was fine to not know more as she drifted back to the conversation in Cantonese and the laughter.

What a fun lot they were.  And the wait staff at the restaurant had a blast with them too as they all seemed to have great playful fun making some kind of points back and forth.  It was great to watch and hear.  The food was OUTSTANDING.  I will return with more friends. This restaurant is a DELIGHT!

At one point, someone asked about “the other Dana” in my department whom everyone at school knows and is a good buddy of mine. They wanted to know if I knew Dana and Susan, both among our fantastic Classified Staff in the department.  I told them that the other Dana is known as Number One, and I am Number Two.  They liked that! I realized then that I was among a group of people that, just like myself, work really hard at our jobs; all of us collectively contribute to an amazing college where thousands of students cross our paths every day, every week, every month, every year.  Some shared where they worked, the buildings they clean, wondering why I am in both Arts Extension and Conlan Hall on occasion, when one had recognized me from the other side of campus. It was hard to explain the Academic Senate offices, so I just made it simpler about my duties to help the college in other ways besides teaching.  Yan then said, “She busy helping us all at college to make it better.”  If I didn’t have my game face on, I would have teared up right then as I am now, typing this, hours later.

Here I sit in a zero-sum game of my tum-tum and the thoughts of a wonderful lunch today with a new group of friends.  We all work together to make our global village at the college the best it can be. I am honored to get to know some of my comrades on campus in this intersection of our lives not at work.

Dim Sum

"Durian" by Kalai - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Durian.jpg#/media/File:Durian.jpg

“Durian” by Kalai – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Durian.jpg#/media/File:Durian.jpg


11 thoughts on “Dim Sum – a zero-sum on the tum-tum

    1. danaj33@yahoo.com

      Thank you, buddy. We all need to step back and take a count of those among us. I met some amazing people today who are all in this as we are: UNITED!

  1. Janey Skinner

    Dana, I’m delighted that you had this delicious and fun opportunity to share with others who work at our college – and delighted for Yan and her friends as well. I’ve got a big smile on my face, reading this – your storytelling skills really make it come alive.

    1. danaj33@yahoo.com

      Thank you so much, Janey. It’s really nice to have a break to allow my mind to stretch out to create. I love to write and my head is so filled with other things during our teaching and other duties that it’s hard for my mind to wander. This break, I’m making it a daily routine to allow myself a few hours each day to do this.
      I appreciate you taking the time to read it and write a comment.

  2. monica

    I have lots of great relationships with our support staff! As you know, it makes a big difference to say hello and make a connection! How wonderful that you shared a lunch together!

  3. Tina Martin

    Being retired, I had hardly been aware that this was spring break (though I did see reference to it), but I think you used yours –very much deserved–in a lovely way, connecting with others at CCSF through food and fun, the very best way. As I read, I felt that I myself was looking for that restaurant in the Sunset. (Hong Hong? Do we have a name now?) My students introduced me to durian a few years ago, but I feel the way you do about Wikipedia. It has the old World Book and Encyclopedia Britannica beat! Do you remember the film Dim Sum from the 1980’s? From that I learned that Dim Sum means a little bit of heart. Your writing always has a lot of heart. I’ve always been grateful for the chance to teach at CCSF. You reinforce that feeling of gratitude. Thank you!

    1. danaj33@yahoo.com

      Hi, Tina!

      Great to hear from you and thank you for commenting here. The place is called S&T Hong Kong Seafood at 2588 Noriega St (at 33rd Ave). It’s a great place and huge, so if you ever need a table for 10 or so, this is your place! Family-style!

  4. Susmita Sengupta

    Thank you for sharing your ‘lunch’ ,connecting and making us smile.Kudos to your creative self and your power to connect with people and community.

    1. danaj33@yahoo.com

      And you, my friend Susmita, are among my favorites, as you know. Some great times we have shared together, no? Many more to come! Perhaps some Dim Sum?

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