Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Microcosm Buffet

I am not sure where this entry is going. I guess it is to suggest that sometimes we are strangers in our own land as our world shrinks and becomes more complex.

I frequent a Chinese Buffet a few blocks down the street. Nothing special, much like all the other Chinese buffets that ubiquitously dot the land. Decent food, cheap price, OK selection, place is spotless and the food is always fresh. I am usually there once a week, sometimes Greg and I go after church on Sunday too. The staff know me by sight.

The place is usually busy and there in is the tale. This little place is a multicultural hotbed. Many of the diners are Mexican. Some families with small kids often speaking English while the adults go on in Spanish. A group of workers together after work, still in the uniform of a painter, roofer, gardener and other jobs many North Americans will not do any more. I know enough Spanish to hear what they are saying. They talk of family, what they did today, what they watched on TV. What they dream of accomplishing.

Above the layer of Spanish, the sing song tones of the Chinese owners and waitress (actually I think she said once that she was Vietnamese) weave through all the "peros", "entonces", "Si's" and "no's" of the Spanish vocabulary. These conversations are more terse and to the point, there are chopsticks to deliver and glasses of tea to fill, crab rangoons to stuff.

As we are in midtown Kansas City, thus from time to time we have the unique English of African-Americans. Sometimes as foreign to me as the Chinese.

A few of us speak white English, or whatever it is called. A regional accent might creep in too, maybe from the South.. or Kansas even.

I guess this is the norm now, even in a small neighborhood Chinese Restaurant, the majority of the patrons are a so called minority in the larger population. Do we even have a single minority now? Will every race and nationality be a minority soon? The US became one nation out people from many nations; "E Pluribus, Unam" remember? I do not see that happening as much now, we are splintering. Newcomers hold on to their customs and languages, not just here but almost everywhere immigrants are flocking. The great melting pot has congealed and separated into lumps, like an unwatched hollandaise.

Perhaps I go to the place for the floor show. I go to revel in the cacophony of voices, explore the customs of the world and see how people are not really all that different as we share the bounty of the ancient cuisine of the East.

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