The Chinese Hamburger

At Second Street Elementary School, I remember a boy in my class telling me that he had been to Chinatown with his parents on the weekend. It was the first time he had set foot in a Chinese restaurant but had a mind of his own, so spoke up rather than following his parents’ example and ordering Chinese food. I guess that, whenever he went into any restaurant for the first time, he ordered a hamburger, even when it is not listed on the menu, thinking it was something that was difficult to get wrong.

He was incensed that it did not arrive with mustard, so sent it back. The kitchen dutifully added a generous portion of mustard to the bun and the hamburger was returned to the table. If he screamed in pain after his first large bite, I will never know as he was too macho to admit it to me.

The kitchen, of course, had used the only mustard they had: Chinese Mustard. Also known as Brown Mustard, it is spicier than Dijon Mustard, many times hotter than the French’s Mustard he was expecting.

I smiled pleasantly and offered the Wisdom of the Ages — after all, I was 10 years old and knew everything — eat Chinese food in a Chinese restaurant.