By Every Family’s Got One Guest Writer — Jackie Friedman

A Story About a Love Affair with Chinese Food

Image by Rawpixel

It all began in the Chinese restaurant in Scarsdale thirty years ago. My son says he still remembers his first experience …. with a wonton.

My friend was serving soup to the children from a large steaming bowl of Wonton soup when she put a wonton into his small dish and broke it up with a spoon, releasing aromatic vapors. That was it for Brad, the beginning of a life long love affair….

with Chinese food.

The steam wafted from the dish into the atmosphere, entering his nostrils, which to him was akin to a religious experience. He remembers the soft noodle on his tongue, the burst in his mouth, how it covered his palette with a rainbow of flavor.

Age five, Brad lamented over all the years he had not been eating wonton soup.

Wonton means…

swallowing clouds in Chinese. My son had found Heaven.

Thirty years later, Brad is totally devoted to wontons and Asian noodles and blames it on his Asian roots, even though in reality he is Jewish, and from Eastern European ancestry. Despite the facts, he still claims he has Asian roots.

Recently I found out…

Brad may not be nuts! Attending a lecture at Greenwich Library, I learned that there is a theory that the ten lost tribes of Israel may have been lost in China. Making a wrong turn off the silk road, with no Google maps to help, the tribes disappeared into China, some even eventually ended up in Japan as well.

There is even genetic evidence, suggesting that this may be the case. I surmise that my son could have a point. He could be genetically linked to Albert Einstein as well as Pu Yi, the last emperor of China.

Brad eats Asian food…

for all his meals, creating very tasty concoctions out of steak, chicken, and veggies. Fried rice is plentiful at our house and rice noodles prominently line our pantry shelves. He does compromise his standards for matzoh ball soup and pizza.

As a young child my son ate mostly cheerios and canned chicken noodle soup, but with the discovery of Chinese food, the love affair began, everything else moving down the ladder.

His college choice…

the University of Indiana was based on an interest in basketball and a Chinese concession in the food court. After several years, Brad tired of mediocre college Chinese food. He found a Chinese restaurant in Bloomington, which was better than college fare but still not up to New York standards.

Frequent visits to the establishment and conversations with the owner led to the offer of a job. He declined, however, as college was demanding, and anyway, why waste time with mediocrity? New York was where the real stuff was being made.

Chinese restaurants…

have always been known to do well in Jewish neighborhoods. Could it be that our tribe has a physiological draw to the food?

I have researched it and the theory seems that when the Jews came to America and landed on the lower east side of New York City, Chinese restaurants offered an array of vegetarian dishes that the Kosher crowd was able to eat.

They were also open…

on Christmas Day. What did a Jew do on Christmas, why Chinese food of course!

The Chinese restaurant was a welcoming place for people alien to holiday tinsel. Generations later, far from the shtetl, Jews still frequent the Chinese restaurants on Christmas.

Thirty years later…

as I admonish my son for using prime grill steaks for Chinese cooking, he reminds me of his Asian roots and the need to make his beef and broccoli outstanding.

So here we are on a merry-go-round, a fridge piled with Asian delights alongside lox and cream cheese. Some Jews separate cutlery for dairy and for meat. But at our house chopsticks sit in the cutlery drawer beside knives and forks.

By the way…

we don’t go to a Chinese restaurant at Christmas. We eat potato latkes under the Christmas tree!

Visit Jackie’s website Red Brick Storyteller. Email her at 

A Story About a Love Affair with Chinese Food

Jackie Friedman has a BA in Speech and Theater, and an MA in Early Childhood Education. She has always been fascinated by stories about real people, and that has led her to explore memoir as a primary genre. She often threads political and historic elements into her work. Jackie has been published in “The East Hampton Star,” “The Darien News,” and “The Scarsdale Enquirer.” In addition, she has participated in “Story Salon East,” a group that shares stories before an audience. She is also an enthusiastic member of the Scarsdale Scribes and the Darien Writers’ Workshop.