Thursday, June 26, 2008

Crossroads

12/16/2000

To you America, I can't imagine the look on your face if you were politely seated next to me right now. There are nine Chinese people speaking two different Mandarin dialects. Their words carry the air with enthusiasm. The circle we are sitting in is bordering a large wooden table clothed in white plastic. The plastic protects the furniture below it from the bubbling cauldron in the middle of the table. There are also plastic bags on our finely gold padded chairs. I am made to put my jacket under the plastic to protect it from the fumes of noxious gas that are let off from the fuel source under the cauldron.

And what a cauldron it is. The boiling, spiced water is full of wiggling fish, chicken blood (dried in blocks like jello), chicken feet, tofu, and many assorted veggies I have never seen, as well as animal parts. It seems the Chinese eat everything. Everything. Your FDA would not allow for things to come to this. All parts of all makes and models have equal opportunity to end up in line on the table. When their number is called, they assume position over the popping bubbles before sliding off their porcelain dish into the maelstrom of submerged biology below.

The little interaction I am allotted in English describes the "food" as organs that function unknown to the eyes of men. That is to say they reside inside animals that, while reasonably domesticated are left mostly unexamined for their insides. Even had they been to the extent of a High School Biology class, I could not have been made to recall their functions at this hour. The English breaks up and goes back to Chinese at these crossroads. It seems that the terms and functions of these organs are much more readily available to my Chinese friends at the table.

To introduce you to my new friends would be useless. I don't know their names. They practice saying mine and then give into calling me by a closely sounding Chinese name. A name is just a symbol anyway. China is full of symbols and names that don't always convert into English. The men are dressed as police officers. Their faces turn beat red against their conservative uniforms as they get really drunk on very strong rice liquor. The liquor tastes like fruit at first and then catches your throat on fire. I imagine men in America drinking hard alcohol like this in small shot glasses. These men drink from large cups.

One of the red faced men is very kind. He stood up to toast me. He says I am strong. Cynthia's mom doesn't allow them to fill my cup with their fire wine. They laugh and eat, poking their bamboo chopsticks toward the center of the table to pull out anything and everything from the cauldron. The men eat fish and spit the heads and tails on the floor. One fish wiggles off the plate and hits the floor prematurely. The floor is not refuge as it is washed off and then dropped into the pot. I am now given jokes about the freshness of the fish as they see the horror on my face.

I bring you up, America, and I talk about your food. One of the men said that the taste of pizza makes him sick. I will not mention you again, America, this is truly amazing. I remember Cynthia telling me that the Chinese have a joke about drinking too much, the face turns red like a monkey's butt. They keep toasting over and over and eating food so spicy it makes the lips numb. Their teeth seem to be rotting in front of me.

1 comment:

0x12d3 said...

You must've told me about this before, but this is the first time I got all the details. I like to try new things, but I think I probably would've sat this one out, and grabbed somethings else down the road !