Today started as many others. I woke up, made some coffee, and hung out with the coolest chick I know (my daughter). It was a nice start, and finally it was time to head into work. That’s when things got a little uncomfortable in the old “food safety” portion of my foodie brain.
…but let’s take a step back…
When living in China, one must come to accept certain discrepancies in one’s personal view on hygiene, food safety, and cleanliness of, well… everything. Bleach is not a well known concept here. One must take things with a grain of rice, and realize that a rather large portion of humanity survives here, and thus, you probably will too. Cold water with no soap will probably clean that knife that is now chopping vegetables after just slicing chicken. Air dried squid on a clothes line should be ok to eat.
I have just moved to Changchun, have been here for two weeks (one of which was spent on hands and knees scrubbing EVERY SINGLE surface of our new apartment, with bleach) and have been enjoying it immensely. The food has been marvelous, the job is keeping me busy. I’m setting up training programs to help improve service standards in 4-5 star hotels; here in China and for students who wish to travel abroad. Pretty cool stuff.
So this morning, I went out to get a taxi. On the way to work I see an open bed delivery truck. It is full of dried noodles. You’ve probably seen or used them before, like bricks just waiting to be boiled. The only issue was, in my opinion, perhaps those noodles should have been covered with something. Here was this truck, cruising at a good clip on a very dusty road, with dried noodle bricks getting covered with god knows what as we follow behind. I was temped to get a picture. I see the truck pull into a small local supermarket and mentally mark the location.
When I get home, my wife tells me another interesting story. Let’s let the pictures talk first.
Near our house is an auto body shop. I suppose a local butcher, or just a guy wearing a doctors coat, asked them to do this. We get to see some interesting things here. Today was no different. Why are they doing this? Unfortunately, due to language barriers, she couldn’t ask. Here’s what I’m thinking. It’s not all that uncommon to use a blowtorch to burn away the hair from the pig, then scrape off the excess. This allows for easier cooking and the ability to eat the skin. That’s my take.
Now, as normal as that may be, it is still not something you would imagine seeing at an auto body shop on your way home from a picnic in the park. Well, kudos. The Chinese are nothing if not resourceful.
Here’s some more interesting shots from our Asian adventures.
Chickens, freshly plucked, hanging out in Winter
Sidewalk squid anyone?
As our Asian adventures continue, we have seen a ton of similar things. Being a Westerner here, you have to get over yourself and accept certain truths. Looking at the above picture, I doubt eating that pig, chicken or squid will kill you, or even make you sick. It seems a little unsavoury, but as long as it’s fresh, you’d think it would be ok. Are Western practices any better?
Well… yes, but…
In the west, we bleach, process, box, mass slaughter, package, let sit on shelves, have products with shelf lives to last a generation… We eat meat injected with water and it seems now “filler” is a food group. Pizza is a vegetable (according to the US government). We add preservatives and color, we eat science experiments, and we accept our own versions of the truth. The truth is, you are what you eat. I think I would rather eat parking lot pig than a hotdog supposedly made from pork.