Monday, May 10, 2010

Seiji the Soup Nazi, 05/09/2010

Dim sum is usually translated to mean "small heart" or "to touch the heart" in English. In our family however, it is translated to mean, "the farthest restaurant from wherever you are that Jolene can find where we can eat Chinese dumplings."

Not that my sister's idiosyncrasies have not yielded great rewards - she is blessed with a network of friends who know good dim sum. The most notable find in recent years has been Din Tai Fung, which was one of my initial inspirations for GMS. The signature soup-filled dumplings are more than worth the wait. And if you get hungry during the minimum 90-minute wait, the restaurant is surrounded by Chinese markets and other eateries where you can grab a snack to tide you over.

An actual family visit to Din Tai Fung. We obviously didn't go for snacks while waiting - we ordered everything in sight.

In fact, Din Tai Fung was the very first soup adventure to be recorded in GMS, with none other than my nephews Seiji and Kenzo as the stars. So it's somewhat fitting that today's post is inspired once again by the mouths of babes. But this time, their mouths weren't wolfing down trays of dumplings but telling their mother and me that we shouldn't order the shark fin and dried clam dumplings at Elite Restaurant in Monterey Park because the way they acquire said shark fin is violently abusive to the much-maligned chondrichthyes (check out, a cool site that can tell you how to pronounce anything!)

That being said, I decided not to order the shark fin dumplings in supreme broth that was also offered. Seiji as the "soup Nazi" of the day had in effect decided that there would be "no environmentally-harmful, cruel-to-animals soup for you!"

One of my favorite "Seinfeld" episodes

As our Mother's Day celebration continued, Jolene and I shared this anecdote with Deborah, whose brilliant son Cooper will get my vote for president of the United States - in 2038. We thought of all the environmentally- conscious training that children get these days and she noted that at least they're getting "brainwashed in the right way."

My 8th grade gym teacher had a pair of sneakers with this symbol printed all over them.

Cooper has certainly been "brainwashed" in the right ways. He is a self-proclaimed vegetarian with no urging from his omnivorous parents, and he is been a great civilizing influence on Seiji, who clears his own place at the table when "Super-Cooper" is over for dinner.

Evidently, starting kids off young with desired behaviors is effective. Our generation grew up waving the green flag with the ecology emblem and watching Iron Eyes Cody get all teary-eyed at our litterbug parents. It's ingrained in most of us to never throw trash in the street or smoke cigarettes.

"Iron Eyes" was not really a Native American, but an American born to Sicilian parents. Going with that ethnic stereotype would have made another equally memorable commercial.

However, proactive and environmentally respectful habits have literally taken decades for those of my generation to adopt. Many long-term improvements to everyday "green" living start in the kitchen, like learning not to eat tuna that is harvested with an odd dolphin caught in the net or taking reusable bags to the grocery store.

I finally trained myself to bring the bag into the store. But I put my wallet and keys in it and hold on to it until I notice that the cashier is putting my purchases in their bags.

It's a hopeful sign when an eight-year-old knows the difference between humans with free will who choose to drive 30 miles to stand in line for an hour so they can eat tiny plates of dumplings - because they can - and other humans with free will who choose to lop the fins off sharks and allow them to die in order to collect a flavorless but status-laden delicacy - because they can.

It's "Hammer Time". Or not.

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