19.09.2013 - 19.09.2013
I disagree with my blog title whole heartedly. I think food is the essence of culture, it creates interest in uninteresting situations and it is damn tasty. I have recently been pondering what I would consider my passions in life, without hesitation food comes to mind. I am not one of those pretentious foodies who only eats at restaurants where the staff speaks French, puts your napkin on your lap and the bathrooms are a sight to be seen, although that sounds spectacular. Rather, I would consider myself very easy going when it comes to where I dine- I enjoy the excitement of new meals as much as the flavors. To justify that statement I will describe my last two meals.
1. For breakfast Cody and I wondered out the front steps of our apartment to the nearest open garage front serving noodles. The lady behind the wheel cart said, ‘yī huò eŕ’, which for all of you less competent in Chinese than myself means, ‘one or two?’ Cody had already eaten, so I hand signaled one as well as verbally butchered possibly the easiest word in the Chinese language, yī. We sat in a crowded garage stall where the grandmother was busy cleaning pig intestine in the sink, the husband stirring a large pot of broth and the boss lady was running around with her fanny pack, taking orders and dulling out change. I have no idea what I ordered, but I was fairly positive I would be receiving just one. My noodles came in a timely fashion and by this point we were sharing our table with two other single diners slurping down their morning noodle bowl. A simple broth; green onions, egg noodles and minced pork on top. I asked for a coffee and got a laugh and a, ‘ méiyǒu, méiyǒu’ (no, no). The noodles were good, a no fuss meal for a no fuss order. It is hard not to appreciate the ease in which they run their business; I will undoubtedly return for another noodle bowl within the week.
Total Cost = 6¥ ($1.00)
Lunch was cereal and milk, nothing overly exciting there.
2. Dinner tonight was a bit different then breakfast. A friend invited us to a dinner at an unknown address and we have a hard time saying no to mystery. We were informed it was casual, but the message implied to error on the side of fancy, so we attempted. Our taxi dropped us off at a stunning hotel where we were met by bell boys who carried umbrellas for us on our 6 meter walk. At the door we were greeted by ‘his’ and ‘hers’ cocktails and a corsage, which I kindly declined. Dinner was all you could eat salad, pasta, pizza, antipasti, bread and of course excessive fruit platters. We ate outside on the covered terrace watching a lightening storm and listening to Dean Martin while drinking bottomless wine. Not bad right? The food was decent, but the presentation and ambiance was 5 star.
Total Cost = 98¥ ($16.00)
The two meals I consumed today had stark contrasts, but they were both equally entertaining and serving of their purpose. Now with that said, I would consider today a superior culinary treat in Haikou, although neither meal was especially noteworthy in the sense of flavors. Note: today is a holiday and thus the reason for the gathering of Westerners for dinner. However on most days, it is sad to say that food = fuel.
To highlight that point I will briefly give you and an example of my typical Monday - Friday food schedule.
Breakfast: A steamed bun and rice porridge with meat or nuts.
Lunch: Steamed white rice, steamed to death vegetable and a gray meat of some sort.
Dinner: Steamed white rice, steamed to death vegetable and a different gray meat of some sort.
Meat options: Often chicken feet, fish head or what appears to be the neck of an animal.
I can cope with this as a menu for some time, but I miss raw vegetables, crunchy textures and blended flavors. I miss decent white wine and real wheat bread. I miss eating at a bar top with a 'too cool' bar tender mixing fancy cocktails and up selling me ridiculous oyster platters. I miss the Seattle food scene. Having moved into an apartment with a kitchen I am able to create a meal more satisfying to the palate, but I lack some essentials such as; an oven, a frying pan, butter and my trusty apron. You can only do so much with a wok. Which leaves me to scour the city streets looking for recognizable meals, at reasonable prices that taste good. It can be done, but I have learned I just don’t have the stomach for traditional Chinese food. Regardless a girl must eat, and so I do.
I love food, and I must admit I have found a handful of fabulous restaurant here in Haikou, and I am bound to find more within the year. I have also learned some kick ass recipes in a wok, as well as started to appreciate the art of raw food cooking at home. There are ways around the glaring nastiness of the majority of Chinese food, and I am still learning the tricks of the trade, but I have a lot more navigating to do. In conclusion I can safely say I would not put traditional Chinese food on my list of ‘Favorite Ethnic Foods’. I apologize if I have offended anyone... but come on, chicken feet!?
Embrace the chaos.