For almost nine years I've been eating fortifying-challenged meals 3-4 times per week from Ling Ling Young Young, my favorite Chinese take-out in Brooklyn. I practically lived in their kitchen my first couple of years in Carroll Gardens. Dave the chef/owner and Chu the delivery man cum manager [and the rest of the gang] slowly but surely became an extended family to me. They made the best Wonton soup on planet earth and their spicy black bean sauce over sauteed chicken and onions or steamed bean curd and bok choy was the creme de la creme of Asian cuisine. Their roast pork egg foo young was my monthly constitutional. I always ate the "foo" within arms length of my telephone to call for paramedics in case I didn't make it through the second omelette with that thick brown gravy. I clogged many an artery ingesting their tasty sesame chicken. Ling Ling was the first restaurant I knew to make their own mustard and duck sauce.
Ling Ling's mustard was the perfect culinary compliment for anything tame and a nuclear test that started many a forest fire in my sinuses. My nose would explode molten lava and my eyes would bleed napalm but their mustard was a testament of life and the ultimate equation. Chu knew how much I loved their mustard and he would tease me, giving me the choice between the manufactured stuff in the plastic clear packets or theirs. I always chose theirs. Our personal high-five.
It got so I could call Ling Ling [they had a special place in my cell phone] and they knew my voice by heart. Chu would yell "Din!" and I would shout "Chu!" and he would know what I wanted and where it was supposed to go without me having to say anything more than "hi" and "bye."
And then, I found out yesterday that today was their last day. Dave sold Ling Ling Young Young to their competitors down the block and the entire gang was retiring. I felt sick to my stomach. Betrayed. Broken up. Sad. Mad. I'd lost my first surrogate Brooklyn family.
I asked Dave why? Why was he leaving his business behind? Dave looked me dead in the eyes and said "Dean, I've been working here for the past 19-years. I haven't taken one day off. I'm tired."