Love in the Time of Coriander

Thoughts on food & more.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Mighty Termite Migration

As you know, I've been traveling throughout the Northeast, and I arrived mid-day in Philly. The purpose of this trip is two-fold--to catch up with Em & to give a reading in the series that she runs. I'm just about to go on in a few hours, and I've got the nerves as usual. I was such a confident child performer, but now I need a couple of glasses of the vino before going on. To make matters worse, I've been feeling particularly bloated and zitty from the usual ebbs and flows of the female biochemistry.

Anyway, I met up with Em a bit after noon, and we both conferred that we were starved for some delicious food. She suggested a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant's lunch special in her West Philly hood. I was down. Apparently, the place that we had gone used to do an on-the-sly restaurant in the backyard before the health authorities got concerned and forced them to be legit. So, now, it's a cute little storefront on Baltimore Street.

We sat in the window next to the door, and our waitress' son, a 3-year old, intermittently brought us gifts. First, he plucked two small white fake flowers from the arrangement in the window and decided to bestow them upon us. Later, he showed us pictures of toys that he was itching for. Throughout this time, we ate delicious soups (I had tom yum & Em had spinach and tofu) and noshed on vegetarian dumplings while waiting for our rice and Thai vegetable curry dishes.

In all, it was a lot of food. I had to stop because I was bursting out of my pants. It was difficult to do so since the curry was so tasty. Em contemplated having the full meal and foregoing dinner. Thus, she kept eating.

It was at this time, in our last bites, that I suddenly looked to the floor beneath us. It was teeming with termites! At least, that's what the customers who were not-so-squeamish had said to us as they walked in and sat at a table. These suckers were big and had wings, too. In fact, both Em and I thought they were small moths. At one point, when another diner had left and the door opened before us, one little termite had flown up to the table. I shooed it away thinking it was a lone moth.

But lo and behold, it was no isolated incident but a phenomenon. Many, maybe a hundred or so, were marching all in one direction--towards the door. A number of insects at one's feet, especially in an eating establishment, is one thing, but to have them all eerily moving in one direction, marching like soldiers, made it quite a spectacle.

Needless to say, the waitress was perturbed and began shooing them out the door with a measly broom and dustpan. I could understand how frustrated she might have been since the restaurant was, though hole-in-the-wall, still respectable.

It was at this point that Em decided that she would save the rest of her lunch for later, not opting for finishing it all in one setting. We paid and left promptly, laughing along the way.


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