So, I figured I’d do a write-up on Chang’s since we all went to celebrate George having done well on his thesis orals. In gearing up to do this write-up, however, I realized that, no matter how long our garlic breath lingered, no matter how full our stomachs were, our memories are far richer and last a great deal longer than the food itself.
With Ben’s and Chris’ passing to the East and with Chang’s closing its Burnside location, any outing to Chang’s will never match the memories we had. So, that’s what this article is about really. To keep us in touch, to help us remember the great times we had, and to remember the Chang’s of by-gone days.
I invite all of you to edit this article and add your own thoughts or memories relating to our Chang’s outings…
I don’t remember why we started going to Chang’s but I remember I had already graduated from Reed. Honestly, I don’t remember if it was the 95-96 or the 96-97 school year that we (Chris, Ben, and I) went almost every Friday for lunch. Chris and Ben already knew each other pretty well from physics and whatnot, and there was one summer when Chris was working in the reactor and pretty much he and I had a BBQ at the RCAs every weekend, along with playing Doom 2 and swimming in my apartment complex’ pool. So that’s how we started hanging out… I think poor Chris had no one else to hang out with that summer except Derek and Jenny, of course, oh and Amy next door to Chris, but I don’t think they were into the BBQ thing quite as much as us.
Anyway, I think the physics people went to WWD every week the year before and that either fell apart with the new school year or Ben and Chris lost interest or something… or maybe it went on but they wanted to add yet another weekly outing to their calendars. So, I was working for Reed and so my lunchtimes were always free (man, Reed was pretty sweet to work for). Once in a while we’d string along some of Ben or Chris’ dormies.
Chang’s was great, but by the end of the school year I was getting a little sick of it. I kept suggesting we go to other places, since for me it was the company that mattered. Still, I suppose if we had gone to other places, our Chang’s memories would’ve been a little diluted. I had a set bowl I would always make (pork, carrots, spinach, green onions, some hot peppers, noodles, 1 soy sauce, 1 sesame oil, 1 oyster sauce, 1 garlic). Ben and Chris would load up on the hot oil, but I always thought the hot peppers were the fresher ingredient and wasn’t as oily. I would usually not do as many noodles the first bowl so that I could have a good Mushu thing going with the Chinese pancakes and Hoisin sauce. Once in a while I’d vary the recipe just for kicks and I often just got a bowl of spinach, garlic, and oil (a dish my mom used to make all the time).
Fondest memories? Chris getting hot sauce in his eye. Chris putting soy sauce in Ben’s root beer as Ben was away getting another bowl and then not being able to keep a straight face about it. I loved how the waitress, and later on the waiter, would know as soon as we walked in that we wanted a booth, a pitcher of root beer, chopsticks, and no soup.
It was me and Chris’ senior year which was the Changs year (that was 96-97). I remember because I never even went to Chang’s before that year’s HA training. I think the first time I went was just before we went up to Mount Hood…it was Chris, Claire, Dharma, and I…and there may have been someone else. And I think our normal day to go to Chang’s was usually Thursdays..because I remember having a class at 1:00, so we went early..leaving around 10:30 in the morning. Some days Melhus would just come into my room, grab my leg, and start trying to yank me off my bunkbed onto the ground. In general, Thursdays meant that I’d be in either Mark or Chris’s car roughly 45 seconds after I woke up. This was typically a great excuse when I inevitably came up on the short end of the Changs-cramming eat-a-thon. I was usually hustling (and in pain) trying to make it to that class. I remember now, it was a Philosophy class: Ethics. Was that the one where CDC taught it and I accidentally suggested to Alex Stein that he ask CDC what was the ethical basis of sleeping with your thesis students? And then he actually went and did it, in front of the class and about 50 people who just came to see the carnage??
I remember the guilty pleasure of using Mark’s Vollum funds to fund the bowlage. Mark was the only person who was creative enough to vary his bowls on a regular basis. I think Chris and I just did the same thing over and over like robots. I also remember going to Chang’s the day I took my GREs…with my dormie Mike and some others. I remember George’s four-bowl day…I think it was at night actually. I remember the year after I graduated getting a story from Kati Weinstein. She was an HA that year and had gone to Changs, and had written on her door “Gone to Changs”…and one of her dormies asked her when she got back…”Who’s Chang?” Having our table all set up when we walked in was a pretty fresh moment too. And talking to the people who worked there (they were all freaky struggling-artist types..that one guy was in a band called Beef right?? And Chris was actually thinking about going to see him play, as I recall).
By about December, Mark and Chris and I could all know automatically whose rogue food had gotten mixed up into our bowl and would generally fling the offending item towards the root beer of the guilty party. I do think my #1 favorite meal would still be Chang’s or the equivalent, and I think the reason has to be the kind of meats they have there and the ability to add an essentially unlimited amount of garlic and sesame seeds/oil. Most painful Chang’s moment: all of us getting our bowls and realizing we didn’t yet have chopsticks…for some reason we all waited with the food right there next to a perfectly good fork…and didn’t start eating until they brought us sticks. Mark’s best homemade fortune cookie: “You like cookies!”.
Ben’s bowl: Beef, noodles, carrots, celery, bean sprouts, water chesnuts, baby corn? (did they have it? I can’t remember), mushrooms (for dinner), 2 soy, 1 1/2 garlic, 1 oyster, 3/4 hot sauce, 1 sesame. Bowl order: sauce, meat, veggies, noodles. Pile o’ food MUST rise 2.5″ above the lip of the bowl. Lots of sesame seeds. Open but don’t eat the fortune cookie. One mint: strongly recommended. Toothpick: required. Softserve: only for the strong of heart. Watering the bowl: avoid at ALL costs.
Speed walking into Chang’s: 4.7 MPH. Speed walking out of Chang’s: 2.1 MPH.
Wow, Mark. Those summer bar-be-ques were the best. I think I might have eaten more food (on average) during those bar-be-ques than on the average Chang’s trip. Of course, stretching the eating out over a six-hour period makes it a little easier to cram it all in… It is funny though how grilling, drinking Super Big Gulps, playing Doom, and going to Chang’s really set the groundwork for friendships between the varied personalities in this group. Amazing… And Mark, you were my only friend that summer, as you may recall, the other two (Jenny the good friend and Derek the roommate) hooked up on the first night that I spent in the apartment.
“You want some cereal Derek? Errrr… Jenny !?!”
I think that the WWD became an institution for me after graduation. I went there plenty while working as the Associate Director of the Reactor, then I discovered the Chavez- another story for another day. I don’t remember how Changs became weekly, because I think we rotated the site a few times at the begining (e.g., Than Thao (Sp?), Oasis Pizza, and FuJin are all places I remember going to on Hawthorne for lunch). By the spring semester, there was never a question where we were going.
Anyway with so many Chang’s trips under my belt, it’s hard to pick out a few classic moments. I will say that I recall getting hot sauce in my eye at least twice and probably three times. But it wasn’t really memorable until Mark and Robin made a group of us individualized fortune cookies. I remember laughing like crazy: “Hot sauce is not Visine.“
I still can’t believe that the original lunch price was around $5. What a deal! Shrimp was only at night or on the weekends, and there was the occasional wire in the spinach. Then the drinks were no longer bottomless, and it became dishonorable to have the cook add water during the grilling process. The evolution of the honor/dishonor of events at Chang’s will always be shrouded in mystery or at least in one off-hand comment that stuck. For Ben, there seemed to be a quantitative measure of how much your bowl was piled above the rim, and my bowls were always smaller, weaker, or whatever. Trash talk was common, but no one ever got too bent out of shape…. Not like that plastic Bam-Bam club that I had my junior year, that thing caused A LOT of problems….
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