Friday, August 15, 2008

There are times when it rocks to be Chinese...

... and this isn't one of them.

What, you thought this was about Olympics? Go away and check out IHT or Reuters or something! This post is about something I found on the end of my chopsticks, possibly at one of several dozen wedding dinners I've attended this year:

Yeah, I just stared at it for about half a minute, too. No, I didn't eat it. And no, I've no idea what it is, nor did the people sitting in the immediate vicinity. The waiters were mostly Malay and Burmese, so they had no idea what it was, either. And having been raised kinda* Chinese, I knew better than to ask my mother what it was.

Here's a big tip to all you sons and daughters of the dragon/Yellow Emperor out there: Never ask your mother what's on your plate. Even if she does in fact know what it is, she will lie to you. And then she will tell you that it's good for you. Odds are she'll tell you it's good for you even if she doesn't know what it is.

But, gazing at that little lump of yuk as it quivered invitingly at the tips of my chopsticks, I couldn't help but feel I'd seen it somewhere before... Ah, now I remember. Ugh...

Truth be told, Chinese culinary arts are something of a mystery to me. Yes, we do eat pretty much anything. "Everything with legs except furniture. Everything that flies except kites." That's more or less how the old saying went. Needs a little updating these days, but you get the picture. In the glorious People's Republic, cats and dogs are most certainly on the menu if you know where to look**. Quan Ju De, the most famous restaurant chain for Beijing Roast Duck has a great big restaurant in Wang Fu Jing, I think, and as I recall, they had a ridiculously exotic menu involving all the bits and pieces of animals you'd never think of. Well, I remembered there being bear, ostrich and camel. Just looking at it, I suspected they've got some sort of deal going with the Beijing Zoo.

I think this business of eating damn near anything you can get in your mouth has its origins in Chinese medical theory. Don't get me wrong, I've every reason to believe that some Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is in fact quite efficacious. But somehow, I've yet to see compelling evidence for the benefits of consuming, say, cockroaches, locusts***, deer genitals, rhino horn and tiger testicles. I don't know, it just seems to me that there is a LOT of completely useless bullshit caught up in TCM, no doubt introduced by some scruffy snake oil salesmen looking to make a quick buck. As such, TCM is in dire need of some spring cleaning to cut out the bullshit and pick out the useful bits that actually help people without having to cut bits off some hapless animals.

I suppose I'm being a little inconsistent here regarding animal cruelty. It's not something I've thought about much, being speciesist as I am, that is, I don't actually care about animals (except cats) unless their welfare is closely linked to that of humans. But that having been said, I'm very much against causing unnecessary suffering. And yet... I have this terrible urge to get me a cat, so I may stroke it and laugh diabolically whilst sat behind a reasonably large desk. Ahem.

* Chinese culture minus the language. More common than you'd think, in Malaysia. Go figure. I blame the Ministry of "Education".

** I had dog once in a Korean restaurant in Beijing. It tasted GOOD.

*** Not kidding. Powdered and used to make a broth, together with about a dozen other assorted herbs and athropods. Smelt vile. Tasted worse.

1 comment:

Rambling Alcoholic said...

So the question is... did u eat it in the end?