Living in China there will be things that happen which seemingly come out of nowhere, and will have the potential to ruin your day, leaving you with a bad taste in your mouth and that same question on your mind; “is living in China the right thing for me?”
One seemingly normal Thursday afternoon, that question was raised as I was eating my lunch at the school cafeteria. Whilst eating chicken and rice, delicious whilst boney, I decided to use my hands to deal with a rather large piece of chicken. Breaking it in two, I realized I was eating the head of the chicken. The discovery that I had separated the jaw from the skull of the bird had ruined my appetite faster than one can say “INSERT HORRIFYING STATEMENT HERE”.
As this experience rattled me, I started to question the relatively unorthodox culinary practices of this ancient civilization, forcing me to reflect back at my own culture. Leading me to the question; “Is this really that weird?” Whilst dining in China I thought I was open-minded towards strange and unusual foods. However after that quasi-traumatizing experience, I noticed instead of being open-minded, I’m simply just oblivious to what I am eating. Which again was made apparent after my favorite noodle restaurant made the mistake by adding English text to the pictures on their walls. The noodles that I had ordered over a dozen times were actually ‘Spicy Noodles with Fatty Pork Intestine’. I knew I was eating mystery meat, but I kept eating it. I never had any idea what I was actually eating. As far as my logic went: DELICIOUS = GOOD.
After learning what I was eating, I never ordered it again.
Which begs the question; why did I stop eating that? It is the most popular thing on their menu, I loved eating that, and I would’ve continued to eat it if I wouldn’t have known what it was. I decided to stop listening to the internal voice in my brain that says ‘this will be gross’ when trying new foods. Just saying F it, and worrying about the flavor consequences later is probably one of the most liberating things I’ve felt in years. Like diving head first out of the plane when skydiving.
Food ethics has been a social hot-button issue in recent times. Whether you are vegetarian, or vegan, pescatarian or what have you, the ethics of food and its origins has changed your life in a somewhat significant manner. Questions of ethics and what I’m eating has become a daily issue for me. Thinking it over I concluded; unless I’m raising the animal myself, I won’t understand the conditions of its life, unless I have my own chicken coop, I won’t know the details of that chicken’s life which produced the eggs I eat. Which leads me to veganism in China, since the majority of the vegetables are sprayed with insecticides, it’s really hard to actually eat food here that is clean and guilt-free.
However, there are five tips I want to share with you if you decide to venture off and go wild on the Chinese cuisine:
- Be safe; make sure what you eat isn’t rotten or inedible.
- Be open-minded; “everyone else is eating this and loving it, why should I exclude myself?”
- Take what is given to you by colleagues in your office, they will more often than not give you food that tastes great, plus this will give them satisfaction knowing that the food they love is also loved by an outsider.
- If you have any hesitation; just take one bite; you don’t need to eat the whole damn rat.
- Be oblivious and don’t ask too many unnecessary questions; our oblivion hasn’t stopped us from enjoying that hot dog has it?
I hope this has been ….. (whatever)
Until next time.
Much love, Lucas xoxo