Friday, March 29, 2013

Here's What I Was Eating:

Without further ado, here are the answers from my previous post about odd comments made during mealtimes:

  • "So, do I eat the whole foot in one bite, or am I supposed to eat it one toe at a time?" - This was during my first encounter with chicken feet, in a recipe where they are served hot.  I can report that although the texture made me a little squirmy, it was actually quite tasty.  Not much meat, though.  I will add, however, that I was NOT in favor of chicken feet when I had them served to me cold on another occasion.  
  • "I don't swallow the toenails, right?" - Also from the chicken feet incident.
  • "How on earth do I eat this animal??  He looks like he could fight me to the death before I can even get him in my mouth!" - This was my second time seeing but first time eating an odd little sea creature called a 'pipa xia'.  The best English translation I could find called it a 'slipper lobster'.  He was so delicious that I consumed many of his friends and relatives as well as him.
  • "So you suck the brains out?" - Also from the previous creature.
  • "Hmmm, I think this one was pregnant when she made it into the pot." - I was eating a shrimp whose egg sacs were still intact.  
  • "And you said this was what part of the cow?  . . . . . Oh." - Yes, your first thought was correct.  I did consume a bull's, er . . . yeah, THAT part of the bull.  Ew.
  • "Sorry, his body armor got caught on my lip." - Those pipa xia really fight back!
  • "Maggie, I'm pretty sure Diana was pulling your leg.  I really don't think you're supposed to serve them frozen." - My dear friend/adopted sister Maggie prepared shrimp . . . and served them frozen.
  • "Wow, judging by the leg, this one was the Marilyn Monroe of the species!" - My friend Linda and I had decided upon rabbit legs for our lunch.  Quite possibly my new favorite meat!
  • "It's a very handy animal.  All that labor, and delicious, too!" -  I really love donkey meat.
  • "Wait, I'm not sure if I understood you correctly.  Sorry, my Chinese isn't always so good.  Did you say this was fish brains or some kind of vegetable?" - It was not, in fact fish brains (although I have eaten those, too).  It was a taro, and the Chinese name for it sounds almost the same as the Chinese for fish brains.
  • "You know, I really thought this part of the body would taste bumpier, but actually I really like it!" - First and definitely not the last time eating cow tongue.
  • "It's sort of like poetic justice eating him, considering what his relatives have done to me in the past." - My salad included some jellyfish in it.
  • "You're sure you're not pulling my leg?  Civilized people actually eat that and enjoy it?  It's not just a fun trick to play on a foreigner?  You're going to eat it, too?" - This was when my friend invited me out for fish brains . . . and yes, I really did eat them.  Odd, but not awful.
  • "Once you get used to the sliminess, it's really delicious." - This was a special type of fungus that I had never tried before.
  • "I'm pretty sure that corpses smell better than this.  How did anyone ever get the initial desire to find out if it was edible?" - Durian smells absolutely dreadful, but is quite delicious . . . if cooked.  It's horrendously disgusting if not cooked.
  • "Yeah, the tentacles really add something to the texture of the dish." - Just your average dish of octopus noodle soup.
  • "Do you realize, I have never once eaten ___ cooked?  I've only ever had it raw!" - Salmon!  Someday I'll find out if I like it cooked as much as I like it raw.
  • "Well now I've got a tail stuck in my tooth . . . " - There are hazards to eating very small shrimp.
  • "So the poison has a lot of health benefits?" - Ah, scorpions.  Yummy!
  • "I just wish he wouldn't look at me with quite so much pleading in his eyes as I'm getting ready to start tearing into him with my chopsticks." - This was from the time when I ate fish brains.
  • "The fungus just adds so much flavor to the dish." - Black fungus and eggs, one of my new favorite dishes.
  • "This smells like dead feet, but it sure tastes good!" - My first time eating aptly named 'stinky tofu'.
  • "Oh, you're right — the texture is a lot like mashed brains!" - One of my favorite tofu soups translates into English as 'tofu brains' . . . although there are no actual brains in the soup.
The long, long list of other foods I've eaten, either in China so far or in Korea includes such delicacies as:  Fried silkworm larva, a grasshopper, a cricket (both adult and pupa), sea worm (I thought it was a weird type of noodle), sea snail (I thought it was beef), raw beef, "thousand year old egg," and sea cucumber (the most revolting thing I have ever put in my mouth -- although the fried silkworm larva is a definite contender for that honor).  Sometimes I eat things just to be polite, other times out of a sense of adventure, and still other times because I have no idea what it is.  Life overseas is definitely an experience that broadens your horizons!

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"