China: So what about the food?


I’ve been back at work for a few days now and questions about my China trip bombard me everywhere I go… “What was your favorite part?”  Was it beautiful there?” “Where did you go?” “Tell me about the food”…{and the now predictable follow-up question} “was it totally weird?”  People want to hear all about our experiences and they especially want to see pictures.  So I’ve decided to set aside all my deep ponderings for now and just answer the basic questions, a few at a time.


I’ve already blogged about my favorite part…it was without question, the people.  They were, for the most part, gentle & friendly.  Smiles were the universal language spoken in China.  From our very first day, people wanted to meet the “round eyes”.  Some folks starred at us, like they’d never seen “our kind” before. Others rushed up to hug us or hand a camera to a friend and stand next to us with a big grin while their photo was taken.  Some wanted to touch my hair, giggling… I wonder if over the color of it.  It shocked Zech at first, even freaked him out a bit.  I told him to act like you’re already a famous NFL superstar and these are Chinese fans mobbing you.  Ultimately we gave in and went along with it.  I was kinda fun…in a “who wants to be a rock star” sort of way.


Now about the food…how about we play a little game?  I’ll describe something and you see if you can guess what it was.  That way you’ll feel like you were with us cause honestly, half the time we didn’t know what we were eating!  Sure you order things from the menu but the food item comes with all kinds of “extra treats” and you literally have no clue what it is.  And in the smaller, older communities the menu is all in Chinese.  We got to a point where we stopped asking because the waitress would say “you don’t wanna know, just try it” and hahaha in their cute Asian way.  So here we go…it looks like chicken nuggets only thinner & smaller, battered & fried and slimy on the inside.  Did you guess crispy fried eel strips?  Good for you!  Okay, try this one.  It’s about the size of a baseball with legs on it and 2 eyes on top bugging out at you, reeeeeeally slimy and swimming in a bowl of thick brown soup.  Yup, boiled frog with brown sauce {don’t even think about asking why they don’t just call the “brown sauce” gravy}!  Here’s another…it’s gray {there’s you’re first hint that it shouldn’t go in your mouth},  the thickness of a pork chop and about half that size, pointed on one end and quite tough with tiny bumps on it.  Give up?  It’s goat tongue!  Had enough or do you want to hear about Beef Tripe?   When I explained what that is, I loved Zech’s brilliant observation…hey if Kansans can eat buffalo testicles and call ‘em mountain oysters let the Chinese enjoy their cow guts and call it tripe!  The most interesting desserts were cold coconut porridge and a popsicle made from red beans, no sugar added.  Yummm.  NOT!  Oh yeah, and my birthday cake was out of this world delicious!


I’m embarrassed to admit that twice we ducked into a McDonald’s just to find food that didn’t still have the eyes attached {proportedly an indication that the food is very fresh… was that supposed to make me like it more?  hmm}.  And the picnic we enjoyed on the Great Wall was a chicken sandwich from Starbucks! When a couple of Chinese students were interviewing Zech for their English language course & the question came up “what is your favorite Chinese food?” my son’s immediate reply was “RICE”!  The award for bravery went to Zech though for expanding beyond just Chinese food…he ate Thai and Vietnamese and he was even willing to try extra spicy Korean kimchee…a big hunk of it, too.  The photos chronicle that adventure from first dare to final red-faced gag.  He later described it as “non-habit-forming”.


The Chinese can take a lot of pride in the fact that they don’t waste any part of the animal.  When they eat, it’s serious business.  And more often than not it’s colorful and pretty to boot!  I almost felt bad snapping the head off that deer carved carrot and munching on it.  But at least that time I knew what was playing with my taste buds!  Sadly the most appetizing thing I saw was a pile of fruit in a really cool brass bowl directly in front of a statue of Buddha.  I got my hands slapped when I reached for an apple!


Next up:  Places you’ve studied in history class…

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