Since the general belief is that the Chinese are a nation of slender individuals, I had hoped that by partaking in the native eating habits I would perhaps shed a few unwanted pounds. Alas, this has not been the case! Imagine eating Chinese food three times daily for twenty-one days!
Every day, at the stadium/hotel we eat our meals, usually in a private room with air conditioning. The staff prepares amazing delicacies and savory dishes of fish, pork, vegetables of unknown origin, dumplings, rice, noodles and soups. The food seems to be made from fresh produce every day. In fact, as I walk to breakfast each morning a variety of people are busy cleaning fish and preparing vegetables in the entranceway to the stadium. The smell isn't particularly appetizing and I need to delicately hop over the slime as it makes its way to the drain but these are the sacrifices one must make! The dishes are always served at a large round table with a rotating centre piece. Those partaking in the meal sit around the table with a small bowl and a set of chopsticks. The fun really starts as the centre piece spins and you are expected to delicately snatch morsels of food from the plates as they spin by. Our hosts easily snatch bits of food and pop them into their mouths effortlessly while we Westerners clumsily fiddle with our sticks and slop food all over the table and sometimes ourselves. The kitchen staff must find our efforts pitiful because they continue to place Western cutlery at the table. Some of my companions have resorted to the fork but I have stoically carried on with my chopsticks and I do not seem to be starving, judging by my waistline, so I must be doing something right.
The Chinese have several interesting practices while eating. They never, and I mean never, seem to actually touch their food with their fingers. They are able to pick up a shrimp or crab leg with their chopsticks and somehow extract the edible portions and then discard the shells into a neat pile on the table within seconds. I have avoided these types of food as I am sure this is beyond my chopstick skill level! We went for a walk one evening with Echo and stopped at a vendor who seemed to be selling a variety of sweets. We are all craving these as our meals do not come with any type of dessert and sweets do not seem to be part of the Chinese diet. We intended to share these morsels which were all placed in one bag. As the vendor realized that we were about to attack our purchases with bare hands he quickly tried to distribute plastic gloves which we waved aside and carelessly began ripping apart cakes and cookies and placing morsels in our mouths with our fingers. Echo looked on with horror, I think, as she donned her gloves. Beverages are not served with meals and cold beverages seem almost non-existent. Echo tells us that many Chinese believe that cold beverages will cause illness. The Chinese do not seem to waste any time while eating and the students seem to be finished their meals in record time. After the first day of feeling a bit isolated in a room by ourselves we asked our hosts if we could split up and join the students at their tables for our meals. This arrangement lasted for about one meal as the students could not leave the table until we, their guest, had finished eating. So while all of their classmates were quickly gone the poor students we were eating with had to remain for an excruciatingly slow Westerner to finish their entire meal. I think they complained about this because for our remaining meals we, the Westerners, were made to sit together and two or three helpless victims (students) were assigned to eat with us!
|Breakfast. I only eat the rice porridge.|
|Prepping food outside my room.|
|Walking past the fish guts on the way to my breakfast each morning.|
|Very fresh fish!|
|I have no idea what this is!|
|Fermented egg. Yes, I ate one.|
|Some kind of dumpling.|
|Eating dinner with the students.|