Wikepedia describes you as a general who lived in Xiangyin during the 1800’s, yet the dish named after you was never eaten there, nor anywhere else near your city. What gives General? Who are you General? The world wants to know. The “chef’s special” wants to know. The mall food court wants to know who you are.
I would be pissed if I were you, General. Did you not realize that your legacy has been immortalized into bits of deep, fried unidentifiable meat products? Some say chicken. Some say beef. Some say cat or dog. How does that feel General? Being named after odd meats dipped in mono-sodium glutamate filled batter isn’t exactly a royal homecoming. No awards for you General.
What horrible things were you responsible for General? Were you the village idiot? Did you cruise your village playgrounds wearing a creepy overcoat, exposing yourself to all the little generals playing cops and robbers? Or were you the victim of ill timed nepotism?
I know, you wanted to be an artist, pianist or a deejay, but for Buddha’s sake, you had to follow in the long line of male General Tso’s before you. You couldn’t break the family history without being shunned or disgraced. They would whisper that you were “light“ on your feet if you spun records or took piano lessons. I get it, I do.
Most people though will admit that they are never really sure exactly what they are eating when they order General Tso’s chicken.
“It just tastes good,” said Sally from Wisconsin.
Bill from Idaho said he loves the crunchy edges of the deep, fried meat and doesn’t really care what’s in the middle. “As long as I can dip it in mayonnaise or Ranch dressing, I’m happy,” he said.
Oh General Tso, I’m sure you have turned in your grave so many times that the worms are getting uncomfortable by now. Could you ever have envisioned yourself being so popular in the mall food court? And what about all the take-out containers being delivered to hungry people in New York City as I write this? Wow, I bet you never suspected that your name would be floating in small white boxes, inside crumpled up brown paper bags getting ready to dodge taxis and bounce up flights of stairs before ending up in some hipsters stomach.
Just think General, if you would have had the foresight to copyright your name, you would have been a hero. With all the royalties from people serving the dish named after you, your family would make Mark Zuckerberg look homeless.
And with all that wealth, your home country of China probably would have already surpassed the United States as the foremost superpower in the world. Well, that’s not really that big of a deal, China’s catching up quite nicely these days.
My heart goes out to you General Tso, you could have done so much more, so much more.