The ancient Oriental man stared at him strangely and grunted. “Hmm? What did you say?”
“I am Food,” the young man repeated.
There was an awkward silence as the Old Man processed the strange remark, but then he grinned thinly and shuffled toward an inner room of the pagoda, calling out to his guest as he went.
“That is a strange name to go by,” the Old Man chuckled. “Wait a moment, I’ll get us something to eat.”
He disappeared from view. The young man heard him opening and closing cabinet doors, rattling dishes. A few minutes later he reappeared, dragging a little cart behind him by means of a skinny rope. There were strange items on it, things the young man had never seen before, things that he wouldn’t have considered food, things that probably should have been growing in a nature preserve.
The Old Man inched his way toward the table, one baby step at a time, tugging the cart forward with each movement. He finally reached the table and slowly lowered himself to the floor, using his cane to aid himself. The young man—Food—watched as his host removed each and every item from the cart, carefully placing each of the white porcelain bowls onto the carved mahogany table.
“Presentation is very important,” the Old Man smiled as he rearranged the bowls into a circle and then moved them around so that the colors of their contents resembled a rainbow on the table. The young man watched quietly, fascinated and hungry but lost in the cultural significance.
Eventually, the Old Man pushed a medium sized bowl of rice across the highly polished table and invited Food to eat.
The young man promptly stuck his hand in one of the bowls and began to talk.
“Where is this place?” he asked. The Old Man made an irritated expression and stared at Food’s hand before looking him in the eye.
“Don’t you know?” the Old Man responded, still staring at Food’s hand. The young man had no idea that putting his hand into his rice was any sort of offense and so failed to fathom that the disapproving look was meant for him.