(This story is illustrated with photographs of a restaurant placemat at the end of a meal. While good faith attempts were made to crop out anything unsavory, if grease marks, crumbs, and wet plate rings offend you, please consider yourself warned.)
When we arrived at the Chinese buffet this afternoon for a late lunch, we discovered that they had changed their placemats. Our local Chinese buffet, in accordance with the ancient law governing all buffet style Chinese restaurants, normally displays and uses one of the three or four Official Chinese Buffet Paper Placemats Featuring the Chinese Zodiac and At Least One Extra Dragon. Today these had been replaced by a copy of the restaurant’s take out and catering menu, normally found folded in a standing holder at the front desk.
Unfolded, the menu is roughly the size of a standard placemat and makes a functional substitute. I have seen this menu any number of times, but I’ve never looked at it closely before.
In particular, I’d always assumed that the scrollwork around the central photograph was a typical Chinese pattern of stylized clouds.
But if you look closely, you’ll see that it’s really a chain of adorable little cartoon bats, with the cloud shapes forming their wings.
A bit of internet research shows that bats are symbols of good fortune in Chinese culture, so these are lucky Chinese restaurant placemat/menu bats. I’ve been looking for an interesting way to draw cartoon bats for Kekionga, and I think I may have found the perfect resource right under my potstickers and peanut butter chicken.