On Eating in China


We had a guide (or guides) last year during our travels in China.  It made logistics easier and given that it was my first trip there it was wonderful to have someone else tend to finding hotels and transportation.  I had never traveled this way before being generally quite independent in my wanderings.  Generally, food was fantastic.  I think I could live on the simple noodle soups we had.

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There were a few surprises.  Ordering was quite challenging, even in Hong Kong and seafood was pricey.  Then there were the confusions of custom.  For example, in Hong Kong, in some restaurants you use the hot water for washing your dishes and utensils before eating with them.  It helps to smile a lot and laugh at oneself.  It can make traveling a joy but also a strain, especially after days of being constantly off balance.


There was the occasional mystery meat or even the time we could not tell you if the food was animal or vegetable.  Then there were the foods I wouldn’t eat–including bee larvae, sand worm and rat.  Even so, I would consider the wonderful food among the highlights of our trip.  It  does not surprise me that the Chinese would be adept at finding food from unusual sources.  As our Chinese guide once told us, “In Canton, if it flies and is not a plane, we eat it; if it is in the water and is not a boat, we eat it; if it has four legs and is not the table, we eat it.”


I wondered if this is a common saying and tried to look it up.  I found the following quote attributed to Philip, Duke of Edinburgh:“If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.”


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