Sunday, May 12, 2013

No Chinese Food For You

Yesterday was something of an exercise in frustration. Bizz and I journeyed to three different pet food chains in search of his favorite treat - Happy Hips Lamb and Rice flavor. Happy Hips derives it's name from the joint enhancing ingredients of glucosamine and chondroitin.  Since I take the same thing vitamins in pill form I thought sounds good. And he loves them. It's the only treat he never tires of.  So we went to PetSmart, PetCo and then finally Pet Food Express.  It was at Pet Food Express where the very helpful clerk (dressed in a cat costume) told me the reason - Happy Hips is made in China.  It seems the food is purchased from a factory in China and the food contains illegal antibiotics which can cause Liver and Kidney failure in dogs.  Ack!!!  Now the issue is that the food containing duck and chicken jerky was specifically cited so I am hoping like crazy that the lamb and rice did not contain it.  So Happy Hips is off the table and the rest has been tossed.

I bought an array of treats yesterday - all made in the USA - and Bizz is selectively snacking on them.  Only one organic chicken and lamb jerky seems to be favored and is of course three times as expensive.  But I slightly digress.

What I found ironic in all of this is that a number of years ago I spent a significant amount of time in China and throughout my first two week journey food always seemed to be an issue.  Here is the story. I was working for a startup that was based in China and I was in charge of the global launch with a focus on china and the US.  I went to China the first time and arrived on a Sunday afternoon. I was picked up by the woman officer manager, my translator and my driver.  All three were very nice and insisted on taking me to dinner even though I had just eaten on the plane.  At dinner I was confronted by a huge menu that was pretty incomprehensible and was studded with photos. I soon learned that my asking what is it was being interpreted as I want this.  I discovered this when I pointed to one photo and discovered it was, no kidding, braised ass penis, a highly prized delicacy that would increase my manhood.  It also cost more than most people in the firm made in a month. Yet the three insisted they would buy it for me. I insisted that given I was a woman my manhood did not need enhancing - in fact it would be undesirable to enhance it, and that I really didn't want it. I finally settled for what I thought was a Caesar salad.  What came was lettuce literally drenched in vinegar topped with an enormous whole fish - eyes, scales, etc.  I picked at it insisting the whole time I was not hungry and was finally allowed to crash in my room.

The next morning I found a breakfast buffet loaded with unidentifiable goodies and no one to help me.  So I settled on what looked like a bowl of cheerios. I was unable to locate milk that didn't look strange (I'm still not sure why but I think it was reconstituted powdered milk) and put watermelon juice on my cereal.  I also found hard boiled eggs and consumed those.

Lunch my first day was a challenge because having grown up never having eaten Chinese food I was incapable with eating with chopsticks. I soon learned several things - the tank of frogs were not in fact like the tanks of fish that decorate the restaurants I had seen - the frogs were enormous, ugly and the special of the day.  I also learned that anything dotted with tiny red things was going to be amazingly hot and it all really didn't matter because I could barely get a grain or two of rice in my mouth.  Thank god in my luggage were squirreled away three boxes worth of protein bars.

I pushed forward in the course of the two weeks discovered several things. I loved dumplings and consumed a great many at dinner one evening.  The thing I learned was that my grandmother Barrett's clean plate club would immediately result in a complete refill of every plate.  In the Chinese culture a clean plate meant that the guest had not been served well. I soon learned not to clear my plate. Second that Peking duck in Beijing is awesome, but duck feet as an appetizer is not a favorite and eel is way to0 slimy for my western palate.  I also had an excellent teacher in my driver - Lu - who I taught to say hello, good bye and a few other words in English and he taught me to use chopsticks.  And I also learned to enjoy real Chinese food. 

On my last day at lunch I was eating my meal and chatting with co-workers when a complete stranger from a different company on another floor in our complex came over and insisted on speaking to me.  My translator told me that he had been watching me and was very pleased to see that I had learned well and my ability to eat with chopsticks was like a real Chinese.  Then he bowed, I bowed and I was so pleased I could burst. 

On my next trip I was taken to a 12 course feast at the Summer Palace. I was seated at a table with a group of Americans and found myself sympathizing with their plight of not knowing what was in front of them. In the course of the meal a vat of boiling water was brought to the table. A series of bowls were presented and their contents dropped into the vat.  After a few moments we were each served a bowl of the teaming soup.  I can honestly say it was one of the best things I've ever eaten - certainly the best soup.  The others agreed and we all emptied and filled our bowls three times to the amazement of our servers. Of course we were only on course 6 which explained their surprise.  I have never known what that soup was called, how it was made or what was in it.  But I will always treasure the memory.

Sadly, I now look at Bizz and realize he will never again be able to have his favorite treat.  From what others tell me it is best to avoid all foods for pets from China and I will comply since I just want Bizz to be happy and healthy.  But I have many fond memories of China, the people, the food and most of all their amazing hospitality to their guests. 

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