Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Culinary Horizons

I am back at school and this time, instead of having one quadmate and a room to myself, I have three quaddies, one of which is my roomie. I have no idea how we are going to share food. I suspect that it will be very... interesting. But probably not as interesting as the food I ate in China this summer!

We went to the night market, Wangfujing, which is in Beijing. Our team director, Dave, promptly took us to a food stall that featured tiny seahorses on a stick, giant starfish on a stick, and still-frantically-thrashing scorpions on a stick. I can't say that I very much like the idea of being still alive and skewered on a stick. I don't think the scorpions liked it much, either. We amended their situation quickly by having them deep fried and seasoned. Then we ate them. We also ate snake on a stick.

Here's the play-by-play:

First, I snapped the stinger part off the little dude, because I didn't want to risk getting stabbed in the throat. Then, I tried to stare it down because everyone knows that the longer you delay something scary by staring at it, the less frightening it becomes. Then I psyched myself up by pretending to be on Fear Factor. Then I put the WHOLE THING IN MY MOUTH AT ONCE.

"Yargghh!" cheered Nick, who was filming the attempt, "Crunch crunch crunch crunch!"

"Oh," I said, "It's not bad." Truly it wasn't, given that all I could taste was seasoning.

"Whoo hoo!" said Nick in encouragement.

It was about then that my having a scorpion in my mouth became a psychological reality. "Yum. Yum," I said to convince myself it was delicious. It was. Like I said, it was just seasoning. Seasoning with crunchy bits. But that didn't change the fact that it was a SCORPION in my mouth. My bluff seemed to convince Nick, though.

"What do you think?" he asked.

I just hummed to give the back of my mouth something to do other than gag.

"First reaction, how are the legs?" he pressed.

I continued humming.

Nick caught on. He changed tack, a note of concern in his voice. "Are you doing ok?"

I hummed.

His voice became a bit more urgent. "Are you doing-"

I swallowed. I opened my mouth to show off its emptiness. Nick cheered. I cheered. Mission successful, and I would totally do it again. It's like popcorn kernel pieces that get stuck in your teeth - completely gut-free. One team member, Stephanie, even said that she would prefer a bag of seasoned scorpions to popcorn for a movie night.
The snake on a stick was less insane. It tasted like meat.
I also had clam and octopus for the first time this trip. My team was less supportive of my endeavour with the clam than with the scorpion.

"Argh!" they exclaimed, "It's still alii~ii~ve! Look at the clam poop! Ewwww!!" But they did cheer for me in the end.
The octopus was an honest mistake. Heidi had thought she was ordering chicken. Unfortunately, I do not have any photo evidence of our octopus escapade, but it was a a team bonding experience. Josh made the tentacles dance and sing and go up his nose (we were starting to lose it; it was near the end of the summer). He tried to feed some chugga-chugga-choo-choo style to Rachel, but it didn't work. Though, she did end up taking a nibble when we enthusiastically chanted her name over and over and over.

The octopus was harder for me than the other delicacies. It was battered, which helped. The first tentacle I grabbed was actually two tentacles, so Einar volunteered to split it with me. As we tried to pull them apart, the batter slid right off, revealing the shiny purple skin and perfect line of suckers beneath.

Einar had compassion. "Actually, I think this one is just mine," he said, taking the whole two tentacles away from me. I took another one with all the batter still on it and bit off as much as could fit in my mouth. It was kinda rubbery, so I had to fight for it.

It tasted fine, but my mind categorizes seafood under sea and not under food. And on this occasion, I guess I forgot to hum. After my third or fourth gagging fit, Nick muttered that he couldn't watch and turned away. But I got it down and didn't throw up! One day, I will be able to do seafood, and I will enjoy it.

After our trip to Wangfujing, we went to McDonald's.

"It's bad luck to die on an empty stomach." G'Kar from Babylon 5

1 comment:

Art said...

Well, after that, you should be able to eat anything you are fed here. Sour cream, mayo, onions, etc. Of course, one day when you cook me supper, I may be nervous to eat what you are cooking...