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谢迈克在中国 » Food


Mike Shecket Goes To China!

Jinyang revisited

May 20th, 2008

As much as I disliked living here before, these days I’m finding it pretty sweet. In fact, unless I’m forgetting something, I haven’t left Jinyang in nearly a month.

In addition to the availability of Western-style fast food (as previously mentioned…many times), there are better grocery stores here now, plus several farmers’ market-type places and a convenience store that’s open until midnight. There’s also a bar that has karaoke, although I haven’t been there in some time. I think the last time I was there with some of the other teachers, we exhausted all the English songs they have that we know.

Come to think of it…having not left Jinyang in a whole month, that probably means that I have also not used any motorized form of transportation for a whole month (including elevators). That’s got to be pretty healthy and green. Or it would be healthy if I wasn’t eating huge amounts of fast food chicken and ramen noodles all the time…maybe it’s a wash overall.

It didn’t start out that way, but life has actually become pretty good here, and there are a lot of people and things I’ll miss.


May 4th, 2008

Man, I’m pretty obsessed with this new fast food restaurant within walking distance of the school.  They’ve got honest-to-goodness chicken…they have something like nuggets, something like popcorn chicken, something like a wrap with sort of chicken fingers in it.  Man oh man, I’ve been missing this stuff.  I’m gonna have to take my camera there just to show you how great it is.  They also have a kiddy play area sort of like McDonald’s, and exactly like Dicos (another Chinese fast food chicken place with branches elsewhere in the city, but not here).  It’s really fun to eat and watch kids jump around in there.

I love Haomeiwei!!!

  1. Chips & salsa and Enchiladas Rancheras from El Acapulco
  2. 5-way from Skyline
  3. My dad’s chicken burgers and kasha
  4. My mom’s spaghetti
  5. My grandma’s vegetable soup
  6. Breadsticks from Olive Garden
  7. Mongolian Beef from China Way (ironically enough)
  8. Hummus and pita bread from Aladdin’s
  9. Garlic naan and curry from Sher-E-Punjab
  10. Wendy’s chili
  11. Bagels with cream cheese
  12. Garlic pickles from Katzinger’s

I don’t know if I’m going to try to eat everything at once when I get back and make myself really sick, or if I’m going to enjoy waking up every day and saying: “Hey!  I can eat another one of my favorite foods today!”

At one of the pizza buffet places tonight, a couple other foreign teachers and I ran into another American.  I haven’t met, or at least talked to, very many Americans at all outside of the other three here at the school.

Basically, this guy from Kentucky came to China partly for some of the same reasons I partly came to China…more or less feeling guilty about being an American and being disgusted with what’s gone on there.  I think we feel the same way about being in China: we don’t really fit in with the culture, and we wonder if we’re really making a difference here.  And we both feel like maybe the place to be is back in America and the thing to do is to try to fix things there.

I still really hate some things about my country, but in the end, I guess I’m realizing that, in my way, I also love my country.

So Friday night, I went out to eat with the foreign teacher crew, and after dinner we went to the fancy department store. We went up to the top floor where they had the fancy imported goods, and I decided to treat myself to a bag of penne pasta (15 yuan, or about $2) and a can of Del Monte spaghetti sauce (35 yuan, or almost $5).

Today, I decided to indulge and break out the good stuff for dinner. Aaaannd I chopped up a big onion and some garlic and sauteed them all nice…dumped in half of the bag of pasta. And it cooked…and mmm mmm looked good…meanwhile I tried to get the sauce can open (my current can opener is super lousy). The minutes went by…just a few more until the pasta was ready to go.

Then I started to see little bits and pieces floating to the surface. No prob, I thought, probably little burny things from the sauteeing in the same pot. I took my bamboo spatula, balanced one on the end, and flipped it into the sink. Another came up, and I did the same. Then I stopped to look at it. Sort of…segmented…with…appendages. Naahhh…I thought. It’s some kind of spice from one of the things I put in.

Then I took another one out. Rolled it between my fingers. This really does look like some kind of…ew. I checked the little glass jar of black pepper. Nothing suspect in there. Checked the cumin powder jar. Clean. Then I checked the bag of pasta…

ARRRRGGGHHH!!! Back in the bag, little dudes are still running around. BAD PASTA! BAD PASTA! Who knows if they’re Italian bugs or if they invaded the bag in China, but there went my meal, my $2 for half a kg of pasta, one big, decent onion and a few cloves of garlic, and my time, and my patience.

Now, since the sauce is already open, and hopefully clean since it’s been in an aluminum can all the way from the U.S., I’m making some rice. Rice & spaghetti sauce ain’t quite the same, but…

Come to think of it, the pasta bag had some Chinese on it. I’m pretty sure it said it was from Italy though…maybe it was imported in a big batch, left to sit around in a factory somewhere here and get infested, then bagged and delivered to all the hoity-toity imported foods floors of all the fancy department stores throughout the provinces.

Sigh…it wouldn’t have killed me to eat it. I just would have gotten some extra protein. I did boil it for ten minutes, after all. But still…some things are just beyond the pale for me. When I want pasta, I want pasta hold the creepy crawlies.

Annoyances and disappointments

November 11th, 2007

So yesterday afternoon, the power went out in our building. I think it went out for the whole school. The internet also went off, so I couldn’t use my laptop on battery power to let my folks know what was going on. So realizing that I was soon going to be in a cold, dark apartment with no hot water and no flashlight, I decided it would be a good time to have a little adventure and check into one of the nice hotels downtown. So here I am at the Nenghui Hotel, 4-stars, a fairly classy joint. But first off, I discover once I get into the room that the Internet’s out of commission here too. So I’m looking at missing the OSU game (though it turned out to be one that I suppose I didn’t want to see anyway), and I’m still out of touch with my family.

Next up, I discover that the elevators here play only one 30-second snippet of the same tune every time you ride them. It’s like a ringtone. It’s a famous solo piano piece and I think it’s not the Moonlight Sonata. Whatever it is, I really never, ever need to hear it again.

Then I went out to dinner. I got a tip from another teacher that there was a “Western-style” restaurant just around the corner from this hotel that had filet mignon, which I had been sorely missing. This was a huge disappointment for me in particular. If there’s two things that I don’t like to eat, it’s eggs and mushrooms (among a zillion other things). Also, if there’s a manner in which I don’t like to eat meat, it’s being reminded that what I’m eating came from a particular kind of animal. So here’s the meal I got:

  • A Coke. Fine, but overpriced at 20 yuan for a can (that’s more or less three bucks).
  • Cream of mushroom soup. Didn’t touch it (came with the steak, and I didn’t know if I could pick a soup).
  • Some kind of toast absolutely swimming in oil and egg. Made a token effort to try to put a tiny morsel in my mouth. It ended up back on the plate.
  • A tiny, tiny salad with a few leaves of lettuce, one ring of onion, maybe a tomato, and then some slices of melon. I don’t really like melon, but even if I did, I don’t want it in a salad with salad dressing.
  • Chicken Satay - not bad, but not great, and they didn’t bring it out with the promised peanut sauce…they brought out the super-intense Guizhou spice combo you can dip skewers into. I can take a bit of that, but not a lot, and darnit I wanted my peanut sauce!
  • The steak. First of all, they brought out a sizzling platter, and it was covered, and I was so excited! They uncovered it revealing the following:

    • One egg, sunny side up. I hate eggs! I don’t want to eat that crap!
    • Some totally unidentified weird looking black thing sitting in the egg white, later identified as…a mushroom.
    • A piece of broccoli that I totally would have wanted to eat, except it was also swimming in egg white.
    • A baby carrot - see above.
    • The steak itself…which was cut all weird, like an “X” with another little disconnected dollop, and looked like it was sort of from the right part of the cow, but it was obviously prepared by someone who would never think of eating such a thing him- or herself. I was able to get some okay stuff off of it, but the kicker was…
    • The whole shebang was delivered on a metal platter in the shape of a cow. It had a cow head, legs, a tail, and it was like you were eating out of the cow’s guts. Not what I wanted to see.

My friends, I know I’m a picky eater. I’m ridiculous really. But I was going out of my way, and paying basically $20, which is a lot here (considering you can get a meal for less than a dollar), and my expectations were all worked up and ohhhh man, was I disappointed.Yet somehow it felt good to face this kind of disappointment, absorb it, and move on. It just reminds me that all my little preferences and hangups aren’t that important, the $20 is just money, and life goes on. Sometimes stuff happens, but it’s okay, it can be dealt with.Oh…that piano piece is Für Elise. Yes, I never, ever need to hear that one again. Makes you want to take the stairs. Arrgh…and by the way, I’m on the sixteenth floor.

October 30th, 2007

I suspect that I’ve been eating boxed ramen noodles with tripe.  Bowl after bowl after bowl of them.  And liking it.  Now, the dilemma is: if I didn’t know what I was eating before and I liked it, should I just go on eating it, or get grossed out and start picking it out and throwing it away?  If you know me at all, you can make an excellent guess.

Freaky food

September 20th, 2007

They eat a lot of things and parts of things here that we usually do not in the U.S.  They’re all like “so you like chicken?  Here’s some chicken for you!” and it comes out mostly like skin and the spine and the head and stuff.  The beef’s usually all gristly and fatty.  Boy, they sure think Americans love beef a lot.

They’ll eat pretty much any part of a pig.  And oh yeah, they like to see the dead animal before they eat it.  On the plus side, tofu is cheap (a big block for about 1 kuai…$0.13 or so…would probably cost $2-3 in the U.S.) and plentiful.  But then sometimes you get tofu and it’s seeped in the most pungent, overwhelming chili ever.  I’ve tasted kinds of spicy here that I did not previously know to exist.

There’s a place just outside the gates of the school that’s great because you can look at all the ingredients and choose exactly what you want and how much you want.  One of the other foreign teachers also brings them some canola oil to use with our meals instead of the lard.  Beyond that…you can go downtown and get KFC, Pizza Hut, “Pizza Fun”, or Dicos (which is kind of like KFC except it’s native…you can get chicken sandwiches, pop, ice cream sundaes, fries…all that good stuff).

I can also cook up a storm in my apartment with my rice cooker and hot plate.  I buy out the grocery store for chicken breast and freeze a bunch of it.


August 30th, 2007

Okay, so I met this woman (and later her husband and his friend and the friend’s student) randomly on a bus to downtown Guiyang.

Here’s what they did for me:

  1. They helped me open a bank account, which was quite an arcane process that would otherwise have had no English assistance.
  2. They took me out to lunch. (We went to a “Western-style cuisine” restaurant, which had some interesting ideas about what Western food is like…but the most interesting part is that my new friends said that if they hadn’t met me, they might never have tried this food, or even ever tried eating with a fork, knife, and spoon!)
  3. They helped me buy a SIM card for my cell phone.
  4. When the phone didn’t work, they trotted me all over town looking for a place that would unlock my phone for me.
  5. They helped me find a place to buy some DVDs.
  6. They helped me catch a cab.
  7. They rode in the cab with me to make sure I got back okay.
  8. They paid for the cab ride!

Oh. My. Goodness. These people are friendly. I’m really beside myself. And they kept saying they were lucky to meet me! I owe them BIG TIME.

I’m excited to do some language exchange with the middle school English teacher, and I hope I get to meet the married couple’s two year old daughter.

Copyright © 2007-8 Michael H. Shecket. All rights reserved.