Food from around the world: The spice of life

By Don “Doc” Sanders

Disclaimer: Do not read this information if you have a weak stomach or have a condition causing nausea.

The theme of this essay is about food served around the world. In my travels I have been eaten various cuisine as I describe here.

A fish head is a delicacy that is served only at the very best restaurants in China. The head is served on a plate that is the centerpiece of the meal. It may be accompanied by a small salad and some freshly baked bread. Generally, only the fish head is served. it is relatively large and will provide about all of the meat a connoisseur will crave with the meal. It is a simple process to use chopsticks peel the flesh from around the lips, cheeks and eyes. I must confess, the meal is outstanding!

At Chinese restaurants, a couple of eggs in the shell are often served with the meat selection. When the shell of the egg is cracked, the yolk contents will be blood red. I am not certain, but it appears that a chick embryo is floating in the yolk.

Red yolk eggs are often served as a side dish with pork. The pork has been cooked and is simmering in a large pot over an open flame adjacent to the customers’ tables. When I report it as a large pot, I am describing a pot that may have 30-40 gallon of water brought to a boil then simmering. The pot contains the whole hog carcass minus the entrails. Portions are cut for the customer according to their choice.

If you are being served at a hotel in a major city such as Beijing or Shanghai, my experience is that the sanitary standards are very similar to our sanitary expectations here. In the city, cooking is rarely done over an open pot. When you are out in the hinterlands, not so much. At a countryside restaurant, the cook inadvertently dropped the ladle that he was using to scoop the food up. The ladle landed on the ground but was quickly retrieved, wiped any dirt off with his sleeve then continue dipping the food.

Another memorable and favorite meal was in Colombia S.A., with frozen crickets on my breakfast cereal. The legs had been removed so they wouldn’t get caught in your teeth. After putting the milk on my breakfast cereal, I was instructed to sprinkle frozen crickets over the top. Wow, what a treat!

Contrast that treat to being served chicken legs and feet for lunch accompanied by soup. I was on the job consulting in a large Chinese dairy (10,000 cows). The employees were hospitable and friendly. They invited me to have lunch with them. And of course….it was chicken feet and chicken broth with a few fragments of meat. The chicken legs were the portion below the feathers and eaten by chewing the skin off the leg bone. The employees were college-age students taking jobs on the dairy to earn a little money. In addition, they were provided dormitory style housing and community style meals.

The Chinese government moved some annual events to the most interior part of China because of societal appearance to the rest of the world. At a huge street fair, slaughtered dogs were laid out (hind feet on them to confirm the species was K-9). Often someone in the crowd had purchased food from a vendor and was munching on a leg or rib from a dog, cat, or some other unusual animal for food. This included Civets (ring tailed cat like carnivore), large, oversized rats, and monkeys. For convenience these were available already processed or a customer could purchase the live animal and do their own processing.

I think the Mongolians had the most incredible history. I have written previously about Genghis Kahn. Because they lived off the land as they marauded their way through Europe and Asia, they rode their steeds hard and fast across the known world. When a horse broke down, it became the source of food for the troops. Genghis Kahn had 100,000 horsemen conquering most of the known world. Broken down horses provided the Mongol hoard a high protein diet which gave them a huge advantage over the Romans and the other Europeans who were sitting around eating carbs and living the good life.

As I reported in previous stories, I have attended a Christian church with the Mongolians. As a part of the historic tradition, they still include fermented mare’s milk and equine derived hors’d’oeuvres with church traditions. Hors’d’oeuvres of chopped and boiled small squares of equine small intestine stuffed with liver kidney and spleen are offered at the close of church services. Generally, the nonalcoholic version of mare’s milk is provided at church but when it’s time to party, the good stuff, the fermented mare’s milk, with boiled liver, intestine, kidney and spleen are served. I can report that the boiled portion of liver, spleen and kidney is similar to what you would expect, but the boiled intestine is dang chewy. It is easier to just swallow it rather than having any expectation of chewing it into morsel size bites. It helps if your gizzard is big.

Check Also

Messy legalities (Part 2)

By Leisa Boley Hellwarth      Legal battles for family farms gets messy. Here is a recap …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *