The Noodle House

While Oliver and I have been out of town, one of our favourite restaurants, The Noodle House, has become the focus of teen anger. The mayor claims that these attacks are not racially motivated, but surely this reflects some sort of very limited view of racism: the teen gangs aren’t attacking Swiss Chalet or the Dairy Queen, after all, and whether they have choosen their target because the of the race of the management, or because The Noodle House is a small, independent business that they don’t understand, the ignorance is the same.

Many of the more important events in my life in the last 13 years have happened at The Noodle House.

Catherine and I had our first big argument there; an argument big enough that whenever we were in sight of arguing again, one of us (usually me) would suggest that we retire to The Noodle House to continue.

Island Services Network was conceived in The Noodle House (it was born, several years later, in Pat’s Rose and Grey). A much younger Peter and Kevin, working for others at the time and frustrated by the dearth of affortable Internet, mused together over several orders of samosas and Kung Pao Gar Ding how things could be different. We called it “Noodle Net” at the time. And sometimes we still do.

Oliver had his first meal out at The Noodle House. He was in a car seat. We were with my parents. We got to sit at the coveted “lazy susan table.” We’ve been back many times since.

As any regular patron of The Noodle House will know, the service is among the best in the world: after several visits, your regular order is memorized and offered to you as a starting place. Catherine asked for chopsticks once, 10 years ago. She has received them, and the hot sauce she asked for, every order since.

And yet, despite all this, it has taken teen attacks for me to learn that the names of the owners are Tommy and Lina Ko. Short of chit-chat at the cash register on the way out, I’ve never inquired about their names. Or their life. Or stopped to consider their important role in my life. I’ve been happy to eat their tasty food, benefit from their warm service, and then leave to return two or three weeks later.

And it’s taken the teen attacks for the community to be forced to confront the racism that lurks within us. That is us.

While I laud efforts, like this one from Zach Stephens, and am proud of the fact that Mayor Lee and the Chief of Police were so quick to react to the immediate situation, I fear that, even if the Kos are convinced to keep The Noodle House and stay in Charlottetown, we’ll all be too quick to take this incident as an aberration rather than as an important sign that deep within the Island soul is a tremendous, powerful fear of the strange, new and unknown.

When this fear leads Islanders to value and honour the past, to conserve a special way of life, to resist the senseless modernities of the big city, and to bond together in strong and powerful families and communities, it can be a positive, attractive, life-affirming force. The kind of force that brings people like us to the Island as refugees from urban life.

When this fear leads Islanders to reject the foreign, to stay too close to home to much of the time, to resist adopting new attitudes and new approaches, and to consider everyone new and different as a potential threat to the established and known, we see it manifest in disturbing, frightening, hateful ways.

As much as it’s important not to lose sight of the immediate need to quell the teen violence, perhaps we should also take the opportunity to consider our own part in building the foundation that allowed it to manifest against something that perhaps only now we realize we hold so dear.


Zach Stephens's picture
Zach Stephens on March 26, 2005 - 15:45 Permalink

Peter, this is a beautiful post. You have a deft touch and a really warm, personal anecdotal style that makes the matter hit home. Thanks for standing behind Tommy and Lina.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on March 26, 2005 - 17:48 Permalink

Peter you are so right — there is a deeep malaise here — a fear of the foreign that is very troubling and may have profound consequences.

I also see this as yet another sign that parents have walked away from their primary role in life which is to raise their children.

As Rob mentions (… when you step back we have a growing list of not to be proud of youth relted issues.

alexander o'neill's picture
alexander o'neill on March 26, 2005 - 23:51 Permalink

When I posted about this someone mentioned to me that they didn’t think it was racially-motivated. And one the obvious level they’re right, but my point was that kids in that situation targetted the Noodle House and its owners in exactly the way they treat individuals for bullying: any difference will do, coupled with perceived vulnerability. If these kids were actually confronted about this I wouldn’t give them enough credit to even be able to articulate any reason at all, be it racist or otherwise.

oliver's picture
oliver on March 27, 2005 - 02:58 Permalink

Maybe “xenophobic” is the word you’re all looking for.

Will Ko's picture
Will Ko on March 27, 2005 - 03:46 Permalink

Hello, this is Tommy and Lina’s son surfing the web for Noodle House stories from Toronto.

I loved reading your post. It’s surprising to find out that our little restaurant have become such an important place for people. Just reading some of these personal accounts of things people have experienced at Noodle House really makes me smile.

Thank you for supporting my parents, all the reaction so far have really given us a new perspective on what the services my parents provide mean to some people.

Kevin O's picture
Kevin O on April 1, 2005 - 21:55 Permalink

Ah Noodle Net!

One of the most interesting things (other than Noodle Net) that happened to me at the Noodle House was watching Chris Bryant (former president of Holland College) eat what I believe was his first bowl of Chicken Cutlet Noodle Soup. Splish splash!

I hope the little creatons who think that making life for others miserable will grow a conscience in time to become city cops, aldermen, and MLAs — some of the professions which found themselves into the lives of those who mobbed my parent’s home some thirty years ago.

What is it in people who are willing to tear down that which others work so hard to build? This goes with spray-painting other peoples’ property, having disregard for those who toil in silence (and mostly gratitude) and live and work purely for the purpose of improving the lives of others by helping to build a community in their own special way.

My first response to this type of thing is to handle it in “the old fashioned way” but perhaps the old ways are what produces it in the first place.

I hope Noodle & Co will be able to weather the storm and dearly hope that these young people (who are obviously mistreated and then ignored by the “older” people in their lives) will realize that what ever they do and whereever they do it, will be the resting place of their old age.

Long live Noodle Net!