Twice this week I have met friends at the Royal Panda for dinner, and both times I left feeling as though I had enjoyed a small vacation.
The word “vacation” has never held a particular luster for me until the past few years, perhaps because my world seems to have become quite compressed. In my mind now I am thinking of those commercials you see on TV where the lady has a vacuum cleaner hose hooked up to a clear plastic bag filled with fluffy winter sweaters, and she is sucking the air out of the bag until it is as flat as a flounder.Gee. That’s a rather alarming insight.
So it’s no wonder I enjoyed my dinner-ludes with friends so very much. One night was a reunion with my well traveled buddies, Bill and Mary, who regaled me with tales of their recent trip to southern Florida.
In Ponce de Leon style, Mary described her discovery of a restaurant that tickled her palate with delectable sushi. She says from now on, whenever they go visit their kids, they plan to dine early and often–and always at said establishment.
Still, there’s no place like home–especially when it includes a welcome back plate of Mr. Wu’s sensational scallops in orange sauce and sauteed spinach.It’s an absolutely lovely plate, and Mary enjoys it with relish.Not pickle relish. I mean she really enjoys it.
Bill held us in shock and awe when for a moment we thought he was about to order something other than his customary Hunan Shrimp. “I’m going to surprise you tonight,” were his exact words, and we waited for the revelation of his order as though white horses were about to thunder through the restaurant.
But then Bill chortled, and it was clear that his next words would be, “I’ll have the Hunan shrimp.” Moments like that are like the flame of friendship. The predictability that is such a comfort when everything else in life is so unpredictable.
I entreated Mr. Wu with my tale of woe–I had not had a chance to eat lunch and I was soooo hungry.We wondered what my meal would be, and it turned out to be a hearty combination of black beans, sweet pepper, and chicken served with brown rice. It was delicious.
We stayed until closing time, enjoying the company and the conversation as the mile markers of family and friends and places flew by with the hours.
On another night, I met two of my friends, Margaret and Amy Beth. Like me, they both have full plates and it was hard for us to figure out a time when all three of us could meet for a plate of Wu food.
Our purpose was to go over the procedure that applicants looking for funding from our arts organization go through so that projects can be better understood, analyzed on an equal footing, and rated in a coherent manner that would make sense to the review panels and to the applicants.A tall order, so I was glad that it also would include a healthy dose of Wu Food.
We are all three fans of Wu, and I admired my pals who both chose a dish they’d never tried before.
Margaret chose the steamed sea bass, which I think is my favorite dish on the menu.It tastes as beautiful as it looks with the colorful shredded vegetables borne aloft by the white sea bass that is in turn set of against the brown of the soy ginger sauce that surrounds it on the plate. It’s just as pretty as it gets.
Amy Beth had the shrimp with walnuts. I really liked the looks of it, too. The dark brown walnuts and the delicate pink of the shrimp looked lovely together.I meant to ask for a taste but I guess I was too enthralled with my own meal, which was his delicately sauced chicken breast and spinach with brown rice.
The three if us discussed the in’s and out’s of fund raising in these interesting times we live in, and pondered the various events and strategies that work and no longer work.
Such conversations as ours I suspect were, that very night, being held at all points in our city, and across our nation. There is a sweet and urgent spirit to help others that is part of the genetic code of every successful community.
While the dinner conversation with Bill and Mary was singularly non-work related, it was not more relaxing than my conversation with Margaret and Amy Beth about the common challenges of our day-to-day jobs that involve fund raisers and development.
That’s because both conversations revolved around the things we care deeply about. The “words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts” weren’t just spoken, they were shared as we shared a common table.
I have often told Mr. Wu that it must be a great satisfaction to him to see so many people eating at his table as friends and as families, and to know that the meals they eat there take them to a place that is beyond the borders of the stress and the tedium of their everyday lives.
He nods and smiles and says, “Thank you.”
So I say, “Aloha!”, Mr. Wu.
Thanks for the vacation.