Close Window
Ovaltine Cafe : Interior

251 East Hastings Street. Early '40s museum of Chinese-Canadian culture. Still in existence. This long, narrow, oak-panelled and mirrored room is deep in spirit and style. Detectives' rendezvous. A room of Chinese algebra and alchemy that sinks deep to the double door kitchen. Lean old men cut sides of beef with three-foot sickle saws and big, black-handled meat cleavers. One has on his head a tall white hat like a white rabbit magician. The neon Jersey Milk clock is quarter to six'pick up sticks. The headwaiter with pencil over his ear is a writer of meal tickets quick and sure. I see him as an opera dancer from ancient China. White powdered face. Long hairs coiled up and pinned on top. The empty spot. Theatrical. The server, I imagine, hasn't lost the skill to throw a somersault, make a table dance or balance a peacock feather on his nose. The waiter's motto here is 'Good Food Well Prepared is the only Kind We Serve. The Taste will Tell and the Flavour will Convince You.' The counter of 32 round stools is a revolving stage to the coming and going elbows and hands of the working men still in town. The hatted soup and coffeemen come from number-doors and wait-windows to hold the stools like domestic chickens in a stoop. They leave and return to the oval dreamroom to take their regular ride on the Ovaltine moon.