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China through the Kaleidoscope of a Curious Traveler

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I also ate bamboo, sea weed, rabbit, and anchovy. Under the stares of students, I enjoyed devouring anchovies with their heads and eyes intact. Somehow, I had no problem with that. This led the 9 years-old Christiana to make a remark with a beautiful smile, "I do not like my lunch to stare at me!" So, while the students, with the exception of three, enjoyed the half a dozen dishes containing pork, I had the monopoly over the plate of "staring" anchovies on the lazy Suzie.

 

I heard many superstitions about food. Like most places, superstitions have many followers in China. I heard from my son's Chinese teacher that Chinese believe that pig blood cleans the lungs off dust, or chicken feet treat wrinkles. Perhaps, Chinese have historical fetish about feet. Remember, how they deformed and mutilated the feet of their daughters while they were little kids through a torturous and evil custom known as "foot binding"? (Remember that we do also practice these kinds of superstitious ceremonies, albeit in a less torturous manner, by chopping the tip of our male children's tiny organs). One of the worst superstitions is about shark fin, which is considered an aphrodisiac that enhances sexual drive and male potency. Based on this baseless belief, tens of millions of sharks are maimed and killed every year just for their fins to be used in soup. A kilogram of shark fin is sold for about $700 in China. Fishermen usually cut off the fins and toss the rest of the shark back to the sea to die in a horrible agony.  (For more information see: http://www.sharkinfo.ch/SI4_99e/sanfrancisco.html )

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I recently learned that feed conversion efficiency (FCE) to body mass for cows is 10% while it is above 40% for beetles. In other words, 90% of food is wasted by cows. Pigs waste seven times even more than cows, since they discharge seven times more stinky waste. No wonder, pig farms pose environmental threat in their surrounding towns by polluting their underground water. Besides efficiency, insects have another advantage: they are so abundant they outweigh all animals combined.

 

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Those of us who are raised in Western societies have aversion to entomophagy, but it might be our destiny. Instead of killing them through insecticides, future generation of Americans might cultivate and harvest bugs in their backyards! Imagine: rather then killing termites, sucking them with straws from infested backyards for dinner! Ironically, we the Westerners, enjoy eating lobsters and crabs which are as ugly as other little insects. Some of us also enjoy eating pigs which are as filthy as an animal could be. For those who are interested in increasing their food menu from a few hundreds to millions, I recommend them reading a delicious and creepy article titled "Environmental Art Project Proposal: Instar" at click here

 

You may eat and drink anything in China, depending on the tolerance of your culture and digestive system, but beware of Durian Fruit. It smells like a pile of rotten boneless chicken breasts marinated in garlic and onion. A South-Asian administrator and the mother of two students in our group served me that presumptuous fruit. Her humble nose never attracted the curious stares of the natives, but my nose was fabulous in detecting the noxious odor. Since I had no clue about it and I did not know that the odor was not originating from the nearby trash, I accepted a bite. I noticed the mischievous smirk on her face! If you are going to China and you are as curious as I am, beware of the fruit solicitors with tiny noses; do not touch that stinky creature. Here is some information from Wikipedia about this so-called fruit:

 

"The durian is the fruit of trees from the genus Durio belonging to the Malvaceae, a large family which includes hibiscus, okra, cotton, mallows, and linden trees. Widely known and revered in Southeast Asia as the "King of Fruits", the fruit is distinctive for its large size, unique odour, and formidable thorn-covered husk. … The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Regarded by some as fragrant, others as overpowering and offensive, the smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust. The odour has led to the fruit's banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia."

 

Besides the diversity in Chinese diet, I also observed a lot of waste. Food was wasted in school's cafeteria and all-you-can-eat restaurants. Wasting food makes me furious, since I cannot fathom any conscious being habitually or deliberately waste nutrition while millions of people around the world are starving. I consider deliberate or reckless food waste a sign of moral bankruptcy.

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China's Wall Merging with the Walls of MacDonald's and Wal-Mart

 

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EDIP YUKSEL, J.D. is a progressive American-Turkish-Kurdish author/philosopher/lawyer/activist (too many hyphens and slashes, I know). His recent English books "Quran: a Reformist Translation", "Manifesto for Islamic Reform", and "NINETEEN: God's (more...)
 
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