Chinese Halloween

It is Thursday, October 31, 1991. My girlfriend Julie sits in my family room surrounded by books. She is knee deep in her Ph.D. program and already feeling the stress of multiple classes, a teaching assistantship, and initial research exploration.

It was Halloween, and as usual, I overbought on the candy. I had arranged to be home early to pass out the treats, and I had also invited Julie over for dinner. She already knew that I could cook. I was stressed by work and I didn’t feel the need to impress her with my culinary skills. The easy dinner solution was to order Chinese carryout.

Just up the street was the now defunct, “Chan’s Kitchen,” my closest Chinese restaurant. A place so familiar with me that they knew my order before I had to utter it. I dialed them up and was greeted by a strong female Chinese accent. “Chan’s Kitchen, can I help you? Oh Kuna, the usual? It will be ready in 20 minutes.”

A quick trip and I was back with plastic and cardboard containers filled with Americanized Asian delicacies. I plopped the paper bag on the table and pulled a few plates from the cupboard. I had asked for chopsticks and put them on top of the plates in all their paper sleeved glory.

Vince, my boss at the time, had been pleased with some work that I had done and gave me a huge and very fancy gift box filled with all sorts of good stuff. Among the prizes was a large magnum of Cristal. I’m not much of a drinker and far from an expert, but I did know that champagne was a wine that did not age well. I didn’t want it to go faulty. “Hey Julie, do you want some fancy champagne to compliment our carry-out? “ “Sure, “ she said.

I didn’t have any champagne flutes and we made due with a couple of wine glasses from Crate and Barrel. We are both light drinkers, but the fruity sweetness of the champagne went down well with the salty goodness of the Chinese food.

There we were, sitting at my kitchen table, plates heaped, glasses full, candles lit, Dexter Gordon’s mellow tenor sax playing in the background. Life was good and for very inexperienced champagne drinkers it just seemed to be getting better with each sip.

The doorbell was constantly ringing and we both would rush to the door to see the latest costume. As we ate and drank the outfits seemed to be getting ever cuter. We decided to finish the bottle, as we thought that the fizziness could not be contained by a replacement cork. Anyway, how bad could this stuff be? It almost tasted like soda pop… or so we thought.

Dear readers, as I mentioned I have very low tolerance to alcohol. I usually drink a single glass or wine, or a single beer. Even at that level, I can feel it. Julie is a bit more tolerant, but not by much.

Finally, the last trick-or-treater came and left. The magnum was empty. I would have to say that the feeling that I had was “unique.” I was happy, actually silly. At the same time I was dizzy and I wasn’t too sure if I was correctly feeling the floor (or my nose, for that matter). Julie was in a similar state. We laughed, we snorted, we commented on the cute costumes, we continued to eat.

The next day was a day of lessons, as my alcohol naive body clearly let me know that I had done something… well, not good. Foggy, somewhat sick, and with a massive headache that refused to respond to acetaminophen, I faced the work day. As sick as I was on Friday, I still had pleasant memories from that 1991 Halloween Thursday.

Last night was Halloween, 2017. Julie was working late and I ordered Chinese. This time from the computer, not the telephone. I had to rely on the web descriptions and (as usual) way over ordered. Our kids were away. Julie picked up the food on her way home from work and I lit some candles. We sat among curry chicken, fried wonton, and tofu shrimp. Now filling paper plates instead of china ones. Now using more practical forks instead of sophisticated chopsticks; each of us having only a small glass of wine. We reminisced over past Chinese Halloweens, as Chinese food on October 31st has now become a 26-year tradition. The doorbell rang, over and over. The cuteness of costumes less evident without the benefit of “champagne goggles.” Twenty-six years… Twenty-six years! A long time ago, yet a memory fresh.

Our tradition of Chinese Halloween came by accident, and it is now part of our family tradition. However, the addition of Cristal has not been repeated. Traditions come from many places and gain a significance of history. Halloween without Chinese food would simply not be Halloween.

I once again overbought the Chinese carry-out.

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