Thursday, September 8, 2011

So what's the deal with that cat?

Have you ever gone into a Chinese Restaurant or Asian Grocery and wondered why they have a little electronic cat waving at you?

It hasn't made me sneeze AAA Batteries despite my allergies.  Never mind those allergies, I've found them cute and perhaps a quaint thing, but never known why they are there in the first place.

If I have a choice, typically I'll go to a Chinese restaurant over any other.  Usually as a result I'm not given the choice.  After all, how many times can you have Curried Chicken, Sesame Balls, and Deep Fried Calamari?  Three or four times a week if I had my say, and I'd be as big as a house instead merely as tall as one.

I understand that the reason why the places have a lot of red in them - it's because it signifies happiness.  But why the cat?

With the advent of the Chinese Buffets I can go and sample every bit of Chinese Food that I want until I'm engorged and can't fathom another morsel of MSG encrusted rapture.  I mean, Mongolian Beef? Oh yeah, I'm there!  I've worn my restaurant welcome out with that one, I'll go back to the buffet three times just to have more of that spicy treat. 

At the one particular Chinese buffet that I prefer, just up the road a piece, there's a little pile of odds and ends near the door to beckon you.  Turtles carved from soap stone so that the head moves when a breeze touches it, chopsticks, and other brightly colored gewgaws.  Some day I'll learn how to use the chopsticks, but for now I'll look at them and take them in before I pass by them to go to the Koi pond and have a seat.

What is the deal with that damn cat!

Ok, so the story is that it's beckoning good luck.

A bit too vague?  Here is the long story.

Asian people (broadly) greet one another with their palms up.   At least that is what the Wikipedia article tells me.  It is to say hello and bring them in. 

Left paw waving at you (on your right) brings in customers.
Right paw waving at you (on your left) brings luck and wealth.

As with anything that is "Eastern", by the time it has made it to the United States it has gotten ... Anglicized or is that Americanized?  That is to say confused.  It also means that the left and right paw rule can also mean the opposite depending on who you ask.  Just smile and nod and think happy thoughts, after all it is a cartoon cat waving at you, how much more can you want?

The first thing is that it is attributed to originally be a Japanese cultural aspect, and not to be a Chinese one.  I'm not completely sure why I always see them in a Chinese Restaurant or when I go on a mad search to find my Oolong Tea in a Chinese, excuse me, Asian market.  After all, the Asian Markets I patronize are either Vietnamese or Korean run but in the view of Pan-Asian splendor, there are things there that are Japanese and Chinese, and these stores sell them all.  My favorite Chinese restaurant in Willow Grove PA was run by a Malaysian family, so more of that Melting Pot that creates some of the most interesting aspects of society in today's United States.

What was a simple ceramic statue has been transmogrified into a coin bank, and then with the expertise of the Japanese, a solar powered statue made mostly of plastic, with a solar panel in the back of its head that powers the little paw that waves you into the shop.

Most likely it beckons you to buy a little solar powered plastic cat that waves to you as you come in to have a meal at the Chinese buffet.

On Federal Highway.   Just ask, I'll give you directions if you're down here.  I'll also try to mooch a lunch time buffet out of you too if you are bold enough to ask directions, so be forewarned.  If they try to serve you up a cat, it will either be ceramic or plastic, your kitty is safe.

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