OPINION> Patrick Whiteley
Of all the gin joints in the world, she walks into mine
By Patrick Whiteley (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-06-29 07:53

Of all the gin joints in the world, she walks into mine

Alice was ignoring the simple plate of potato and pumpkin stew sitting in front of her on the restaurant table. In fact, the good-looking, well-read, style-conscious, new-generation Chinese hadn't touched any of the different Moroccan dishes.

She had liked the exotic idea of Moroccan food but when it came to actually eating it, the simple taste of this North African cuisine didn't meet her post-card expectations.

The portly Moroccan chef's eyes glared angrily at Alice's lack of interest and took her rejection very personal. He then served up the next course of the evening - a surprising tirade of abuse.

"Why you no touch my marvelous couscous?" he barked in a French accent.

"You new-generation types make me sick. You only read things in magazines, watch things on TV, and maybe you see a French movie and you act is if you know so much. But you know so little, and are unwilling to really try new things. A disgrace."

Alice's empty mouth opened wide in stunned confusion but the rotund chef was only warming up.

"Ah, you think they are going to lead the world in the 21st century. You think you are so open, so international but it is rubbish!

"Nothing new can fit into your narrow mind."

There was dead silence at our table, but it was hard to hold back a laugh. The outburst, in that funny French accent, was so outrageous it was simply a scream.

And there was a pinch of truth. Alice thinks herself as a worldly kind of gal and values her views more than most, as many confident and very attractive people do. She knows Morocco's capital is Rabat and the nation was once a French colony, giving it a fusion of cultures. But one small bite of a new culture was more than enough.

Like many of her fashionable friends, she liked the idea of tasting something foreign but when she did, reality bit back.

Morocco Expat 1, New Generation China 0.

Alice soon recovered and eyed the plump fellow up and down. A smile soon appeared on her pretty face. "And who are you supposed to be?" she asks.


Everybody cracks up.

There was a pinch of truth. The big-talking fellow did look a little like that jolly green ogre from the popular animated film.

Of course her verbal volley was puerile and straight from the schoolyard. It was like calling someone "fatty", or "four-eyes", but it did have a special touch.

Shrek isn't all that bad. He's funny, and nice enough, but is somewhat challenged in the looks department, a problem Alice knew she never had to endure. She saw his weakness, she saw her strength and it was a solid counter punch.

Morocco Expat 1, New Generation China 1.

Shrek fired another blast, but it soon became boring and we left him to stew.

The game ended in a draw but I'm sure Shrek must have been sharing the same frustration as Rick did in that classic movie about his hometown Casablanca.

"Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine."

(China Daily 06/29/2009 page10)