This morning I took Mrs. Lee to Gate of Heaven cemetery, as there is a monthly memorial Mass for the dead, and we were visiting the niche were her husband's ashes were placed. Gate of Heaven is in the foothills of Cupertino; there was a funeral taking place this morning--Asians, wearing black clothing with a white headband. Fr. (Msgr.) Mitchell was the celebrant for Mass, I haven't seen him for a while. He is currently living in the priests' retirement residence at St. Joseph. As for the liturgy... typical American Novus Ordo "excesses"/customs, with the choice of music especially. The homily was about how Christians should grieve, it was ok, but...
Afterwards we drove to San Jose to get noodle soup at this Vietnamese restaurant, which is apparently rather popular. My mom was telling me that another of her other friends was asking about this Vietnamese restaurant, Bun Bo Hue An Nam. "Do you know they have ox penis there?" And my mom said yes. "Ngau pin is ox penis in Cantonese." But Mrs. Lee said, "Oh that's [ngau pin] might be Vietnamese, it probably means something else."
After we got a table, I went to the bathroom because I had drank too much sugary drinks at the birthday reception after the Mass. (They were celebrating the birthday of the liturgist, who used to be the liturgist at St. Joseph's. Ahem.) When I came back I found out they had already placed the order. I inquired, "What did you order for me?" My mom said, "We ordered the special for you."
I looked at the special. bun bo hue ngau pin.
Yuck. "I don't want that!"
My mom said, "I shouldn't have told you what it is. You should eat it, it's good."
Great! My mom is trying to feed me ox penis! No way! Just like that time she tried to feed me frogs' legs, but worse! (I bet ngau pin doesn't "taste like chicken" either!)
So we tried to change the order, but it was too late, and I said "forget it I'll just give you the ngau pin" to my mom. The waiter said it's "tendon" but "softer" so Mrs. Lee thought it was just tendon. So when my bowl came he picked out the white tissue to tell us this is what "ngau pin" looks like. Mrs. Lee said, "If you don't want to eat it. I ended up ordering beef pho instead as Mrs. Lee suggested, because the noodle bowl had other stuff, dried blood and who knows what else, and I was giving all of that to my mom.
I then commented, "I'm not impotent, I don't need it." Because ox and tiger penis are considered to be remedies for impotence in Asian medicine.
Mrs. Lee thought I didn't want to eat it because I thought the noodle soup was too spicy.
"I didn't know you were scared of tendon, that's why I take you to this place. Otherwise I'd take you to another place, it's better for other stuff."
But finally after my mom and I were talking about ngau pin and how discussing whether I should try it or not, my mom explained to her that I didn't want to eat it because it's ox penis (as it says in English on the menu--but neither of them had paid attention to it before). "To chu dzai [native-born Chinese], they are scared of this." Ox penis isn't exactly an American delicacy. My mom: "You know, it's the boy's thing."
Mrs. Lee: "Oh my gawd! Are you serious? It is penis? Why is it white? Why is it so big?"
"Because it's from a cow."
"Where do they get so many?"
I was trying to explain, "Because Americans don't buy it, only Asians" So there's probably a lot available. My mom added, "Chinese or Vietnamese supermarkets may even sell it."
"I can't believe I ate that. My stomach doesn't feel good, faan wei. I may have to go to the bathroom once I go home! No wonder you said you're not impotent!" Hah, it was funny listening to my mom try to explain what impotence is.
Mrs. Lee asked, "What happens if woman eats it? I may get too hot, and I don't have a man!"
"Oh my gawd! And I was asking you to give me your ngau pin because I thought it was ngau gan [tendon]!"
She and my mom were saying that another friend "should eat it, then she may rape her husband."
"Last time! No more ngau pin!"
"Instead of enjoying the taste, now my mouth tastes bitter, like after eating Chinese medicine."
Mrs. Lee said, "It's good you came, you saved our lives! Otherwise I would keep coming here for 10 years and eat this and not know what it is!" Ha! How would Mrs. Lee's daughter react to it? Just wait until my sisters find out what they had for lunch. Even my mom started to lose her appetite for ngau pin. She may not eat it again either. Mrs. Lee asked her, "How come you didn't tell me before!?! Why do you eat it, if you know what it is?" The reply, "Because you were eating it too, and seemed ok with it." As you may know, my mom isn't a picky eater.
I think the waiter was saying it was "like tendon" and not really "penis" because he didn't want the hassle of returning 3 bowls to the kitchen. Well, Mrs. Lee and my mom did agree that it was softer than tendon.
So then they were talking about their other friends who had come to the restaurant to order this special dish, and they were wondering how many actually knew what they were eating, and what would happen if they found out. Then they were talking about two of Mrs. Lee's co-workers who liked the dish, and how the two men were having lots of kids. (5 for one of them.) They would joke around with Mrs. Lee about how "hot" the dish made them, and make kissy faces.
My mom and Mrs. Lee were laughing so hard, my mom got a sore throat and was complaining that she was "saa sang" (losing her voice).
(The beef pho was ok, I don't care for the pho noodles that much--the noodles with the special dish looked better--they were thicker, but I didn't eat any. The soup for the beef pho was good, and I actually drank all of it this time.)
Today is the feast day of St. Clare of Assisi, patroness of the diocese.