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Darwin Shen: Blog

a return to writing

Posted on February 21, 2015 with 0 comments

I used to write a lot but once it got to be popular to pollute the internet with ones own shortcomings in prose, I decided to stop.  The sum total of my writing became my short spurts of outrage or joy on Facebook, but now I have decided that I do need the outlet of writing.  So excuse me as I write about the things that interest me, the things that bother me, and perhaps most worrying the things that I think about. 

I have worked in the music business for longer than I care to admit. When I wasn’t working in the business, I was working AT the business so go figure that one. 

If you ask people who have worked with me on a regular basis or hang out with me they all have a story about me.  Usually the story starts: “one time Darwin and I were in a restaurant.”  My friend Krista Adams-Santilli has one which starts “one time Darwin and I were in an airport, looking for a restaurant.” 

It is simple.  Musicians are extremely attuned to their senses.  That is why when you talk to a musician they always are asking about a restaurant.  When you go to a city what restaurant is there?  What food is good?  I mean sometimes the meal is the only thing to do in the small town.  Though I hear that Glenn Gould was not interested in these things….big shock.

My father once said, that my mother likes only food from the Jiang Su province of China and dislikes eating.  He likes no food but eats anything, and his son has it the worst of all, likes everything and eats everything.

So I begin my writings not about music but on my periodic sojourns into the culinary world.

I read an article the other day in the Wall Street Journal which spoke of Xian foods and how this small counter in a basement “mall” has been transformed into a veritable food empire. 

It was interesting because before the media chanced upon the small food shack it was just another one of the food stalls that served food in conditions that could charitably be described as primitive and more realistically described as unsanitary.

The item that Bourdain ate there was the lamb burger.  I have had the lamb burger many times and the noodles in the broth.  These types of little stands and stalls litter (I probably should use a different word) the Flushing area.  There will be no faux southern Cantonese cuisine here.  I admit that at times I like eating bad take out Chinese food.  There is something sort of reassuring about getting average pseudo Chinese food rather than overly wrought Asian (con)fusion cuisine that seems to be the fashion of today.

I feel that when we go out and try different things, I do so as an adventurer.  It isn’t just that this place has enough good ratings on Tripadvisor or Yelp.  I prefer to be the person who looks at a place and says, lets try it.  By the time a place has gotten enough press it no longer has the same freshness anymore. 

Xian Famous Foods is now a veritable food empire.  Transformed by a chance visit by Anthony Bourdain, from a food stall to several locations through out NYC.  But do you want to know a secret?  The food in these restaurants sucks.  Okay, perhaps sucks is a harsh word. The food is not up to the standard of the original food stall.  The biggest travesty is that the food stall in Flushing STILL exists.  It is there in all its glory underground where if you are brave enough you can go and order things that you might never have seen otherwise.  

You might buy into the press and go to the sanitized, safe, fit for western sensibilities locations,  but I say go for the original and the exotic.  Sure the next stand over may not seem to be the cleanest.  Yes the noodle shop may have raw produce sitting on the floor next to a mop and a bucket of dirty water.  Think of it as local flavor.  No pun intended.