kung pao mitzvah

For as long as i can remember, ive been accused of being a bad Jew. Not because i skip synagogue 99% of the time, or because i love a Big Mac. I was Bat-Miztvah'ed at 12, fast every Yom Kippur, read & speak Hebrew fluently and have visited the Holy Land. Even as we speak, i am (somewhat desperately as well as unsuccessfully) seeking a Jewish mate.

So why then, would i be a bad Jew?

The answer to those who know me is obvious...
because i HATE Chinese food.

Growing up in the Steinberg household meant #1 on speed dial was Grandma Sybil, #2 was Grandma Shirley, and #3 was Yangtze. During Holidays, we'd order in from Yangtze. Mom's not feeling well friday night? Yangtze for Shabbat dinner. Parents going out of town? Dont forget to leave money for Yangtze!

Now don't confuse Yangtze with something i DID in fact love as a child, which is Yahtzee. No, Yangtze was an eye sore of a chinese restaurant in the highly Orthodox Jew populated area of Montreal named Van Horne, nestled between Rosenberg Bookshop, Simcha's Sandwich Shop and Lad&Lassie (where you had to go to buy Jewish private school uniforms). Yes, the Yangtze proprietors knew their audience, this was for certain.

Established in 1956, it had been in the family digestive system since my Grandfather started visiting it back then with his equally clogged artery buddies. It was common vocabulary to anyone of my faith.

After my Grandfathers passing in '99, my Auntie Marilyn sent over the meal for the second night of the Shiva, and sure enough it was Yangtze. As g-d is my witness, we actually found a cockroach in the food (albeit dead) yet the hoards of friends & relatives there continued to eat, as though it was expected, without so much as calling the restaurant to complain.

This is Jews and chinese food.

Yangtze was like that somewhat irritating cousin who was similar to you in age, and would come over a lot, but you wouldnt know til your parents called you downstairs and he was already sitting at the table. Then after the meal your parents would make you take him rollerblading with you and your girlfriends and it would almost feel like they were trying to set you guys up. I hated that cousin, and I hated Yangtze.

Nobody ever asked me what i wanted to eat growing up. Dinner was what it was. This "habit" carried over to my formative years as a "Vegan" where mom's "Where's the Meat Meatloaf" was considered an enjoyable feast.

I recall dinners where i'd sit in silence while my brothers heads would literally be submerged in cheap red tupperware filled with General Tao and Pineapple Chicken, only retreating to the surface for air or to insult me. My father would look at me and jokingly tell me i couldn't possibly be Jewish; although there was an undertone of disappointment as there would be if i failed out of private school or had decided to marry a woman.

When those comments were made, id simply leave the kitchen. Defeated, head down, and hungry. But without fail, later that evening i'd return for a microwave-nuked bagel and cheese and if we had them, a nice humentashen to wash it down.

And they say i'm not Jewish.

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