One can argue that pho and teriyaki are Seattle’s favorite fast foods. These restaurants are everywhere. As I point out in a current New York Magazine article about Seattle, teriyaki can range from the standby, like Toshi’s Grill in Renton (by the man who started the boom) to the splurge, like you can find at Canlis. That said, I rarely go out for teriyaki.
Pho, on the other hand, is my emergency food. I love to eat it if there’s nothing in my refrigerator, or if I’m feeling on the verge for sickness. There’s a similar range in hole-in-the-wall to occasional fine-dining versions, with most middling in quality but still satisfying when stuck for cheap eats. And there’s always a new one to try out. New to me was Pho Le’s in Capitol Hill. The owners are really nice; they even invited me into the kitchen to catch a glimpse of the cooking and plating (or should I say bowling?) process. But it was another middling version. I found the broth too sweet, and while I ordered the pho dac biet (“with all kind of beef, soft tendon and tripe”), the meat pieces small and scarce. Yet I was happy to have had it.
So what does Pho Le’s pho teach us about sex?
It’s all about the flexibility of the F-word.
Pho restaurants have some fantastic names, assuming you know the correct pronunciation (or not) of the word “pho.” In CaliPhoNia (an actual restaurant name), I found places like 9021Pho, UnPhoGettable, and Absolutely PHObulous. Those are fun, but as a sex educator with a sometimes sixth-grade sense of humor, I especially love some sexually interesting restaurant names closer to home (strangely enough, they’re all outside of Seattle): Pho In & Out, Pho King, Pho Kim, and–of course–What the Pho.
Just as these restaurant owners are manipulating the word pho, the F-word itself has a long history of versatility.
As the Wikipedia entry indicates, “fuck” can be a noun, adverb, verb, imperative, and interjection. And with alliterative joy, it can characterize anything dismissed, disdained, defiled, or destroyed. But while the word can denote pain or hatred, it can also be about pleasure and love.
For an entertaining look at the origins and use of the word, I highly recommend the 2005 documentary Fuck, which predictably contains archive footage from the likes of George Carlin and Lenny Bruce, but also manages to include Pat Boone, Sam Donaldson, Ron Jeremy, Alanis Morrissette, Sandra Tsing Loh, and many other interesting characters.
For now, simply put, the word alone as a verb means “to have sexual intercourse,” while as a noun it’s the act of intercourse.
And if you don’t give a f@#k about any of this, I say go to some pho shop and stand in the line–also known as PhoQueue.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on July 26, 2012.