The New China Doll

There is a Chinese restaurant nearby, where I occasionally go to eat.  It is a simple enough place; family operated, a little run down, and decorated to fit the seemingly-universal design patterns of such places in North America.

Being there brings on a certain sense of comfort, and – dare I say – conservatism.  Whenever I have sat down for a meal at The New China Doll, I have been greeted by the matron of the family, and seated near some middle-, retirement-, and senior-aged members of the Kingston community.

I do not dine there for the quality of the food, nor do I lap up the decor with appreciative delight.  The true reason is not so obvious.

There is a feeling that confronts me while I am at The New China Doll, one that seems to suggest the failing of illusion.  There was a time when the decor, family-run nature, and food provided an authentic cultural experience for hungry visitors;  I can still remember the look on the face of my grandmother whenever we dined at one of the ethnic restaurants in my hometown.

The system is now showing its age; it is rare indeed that one can enter a restaurant of this type and be bought by its image.

These restaurants play by the old rules; they are outdated, obsolete, and archaic.  At the same time, however, there is a tremendous sense of pride, effort, and honesty exuded by them.  Their glory-days are now gone, and the families who ran the businesses at that time are growing old.

There is a melancholy peace found while dining, as fellow patrons are either looking for a bargain meal, or grasping at a now-distant memory.

The restaurants have not changed.  They serve the same dishes, prepare them in more-or-less the same way, and manage business with the same frugality.  They defiantly stand their ground as the world goes on around them.

When I paid for my meal, I reached out for the familiar debit control pad, only to have my server take it from me and replace it with a new machine.  Pin and chip technology, it seems, had forced a little bit of adaptation onto the restaurant.



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