The Blogger Responds: Bring on the Strange Food

Travelling the Silicon Road
Well, I literally just finished packing my bags for the first leg of the trip, which involves flying on Tuesday from Charleston, WV — West ByGawd! as many of us here like to call it — into San Francisco to spend a few days at Reed Business Information’s San Jose office. I’ll be wrapping up a few last minute work-related details before jetting off to Beijing on Friday.

Praise the IT gods! Traveling to China for a month warrants the use of a brand new laptop: hallelujah!

Anyway, my first three posts have drawn a number of comments from readers. I’ve responded to some in the comments section of each blog post; rather than do that this time, I’d thought I’d kill several metaphorical birds with one stone, as it were. So without further ado, in no particular order, here are some responses to recent comments that I haven’t already addressed:

Sam: I find the idea of the entire country on the same time zone intriguing. After traveling around China for a month, including a trip inland into the Sichuan province, I’ll let everyone here know what I think, and I’ll be sure and ask the Chinese what they think.

Stuart: Sorry, but I’m leaving the granola bars at home. I realize Chinese food in America and Chinese food in China will surely prove to be two different things. But I really do like trying exotic cuisine, the weirder the better.

My first night ever in France, it was frog legs and escargot (soak anything in butter and garlic long enough, and it’s bound to taste good). My first morning in Ireland, it was blood sausage, or black pudding, or something like that.

I’m not saying I’ll ever eat the exotic dish in question again, and I may chicken out and draw the line at some things. But once one has eaten fish gonads well, let’s just say there are not too many dining frontiers one is not willing to cross in the name of cultural experience and understanding.

Now I know everyone wants to hear that story; to make it short: on my first trip to Japan some new-found friends became determined to find a Japanese dish that this gaijin wouldn’t eat (this was after I refused to eat at McDonalds and Tony Romas — I wasn’t about to eat at a restaurant in Tokyo that I could eat at in Cleveland). My only caveat for this challenge was that I had to know what it was before I tried it.

Finally, after two days of chicken cartilage, cow tongues, fish heads and various odd parts of just about every sea creature imaginable, I was presented with a small bowl full of what looked vaguely like rotini noodles covered in a gray sauce. It kinda tasted gray as well, if you can imagine that.

I was a little leery, as my Japanese friends insisted that I try it first before they would tell me what it was. After toughing it out and making my way through half the dish — about two or three bites — and after much embarrassed laughter and wrestling with the language barrier, I finally ascertained that I had just ingested the male reproductive organs of a fish.

I’m not sure if they were technically testicles or not, not being an expert on fish genitalia; until that moment I had never really considered if male fish have testicles or what. Last time I was in a Red Lobster, I didn’t see fish gonads on the menu.

But rest assured, you haven’t fully experienced life until you’ve eaten male fish gonads in front of three giggling, blushing Japanese women.

So one of my goals for China is to top the dining on fish gonads story. Of course, knowing my luck, people I’m going to be meeting in China are reading this, and I’ll be forced to put or shut up.

Hong Wu: Yours is an interesting story. From what I understand, in recent years, your story has played out many times over: while in the past many Chinese students remained abroad after obtaining an education overseas, many now return to help foster the burgeoning electronics industry. I actually hope to talk to students and professionals like you while I’m in China. While I’ve made some plans for this, if you read this — or if anyone else fits the above description — please shoot me an email. I’d love to talk to you while I’m there.

Marto Hoary: Some of my colleagues from Electronic Business China will be accompanying me part of the time during my trip to serve as interpreters; the remainder of the time I will have a Chinese student in tow to help with translation/interpretation.

But I’ve been trying to learn a bit of Chinese myself; I’ve found that when traveling abroad, if you show that you’ve at least made some attempt to learn something about the native culture, including its language, it can take you a long way and endear you to the local populace.

Plus the following phrases always prove indispensable when traveling in a foreign country: hello, goodbye, please, thank you, help, beer please, where is the toilet, I don’t speak (insert language of choice here); do you speak English? And of course, help!

And I would think that anyone traveling to China on business would want to learn at least rudimentary Chinese. If not for the purposes of business, then so you can embarrass teenage girls on trains when they start gossiping about you, thinking that you can’t understand them.

Electronic News Travels to ChinaAnd it is my personal goal to make up for all the idiot American tourists abroad — and I’ve seen a few Aussies guilty of this too — that think if they speak English loudly and slowly enough, people from other countries should understand them!

OK, the next missive will be filed from the left-hand coast of America, i.e., California, and then it will be off to China.

Jeff

P.S. Almost forgot: Dan posted a comment about Slate.com and a blog by a former U.S. securities analyst who spent six months in China investigating the “Gold Rush” going on there.

You can find those archives here; I’ve only read a few posts so far, but it is pretty good stuff.

Editor’s Note: As explained at length elsewhere on this site, this is a blog entry of mine that originally appeared on the now-defunct Electronic News’ website, which is long gone. While its former sister pub Electronic Design News (EDN) currently holds the copyright to all Electronic News copy (to the best of my knowledge), as far as I know, this blog content isn’t hosted anywhere else on the Internet, hence my reproduction here.

Original Comments

at 10/4/2005 2:45:38 AM, tony said:

hi Jeff you are really an interesting person. i look forward to your visit.

at 10/4/2005 3:10:56 PM, Ron Bauerle said:

Here are a couple for you to try: http://www.divegallery.com/sea_cucumber_2. and htm http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=1107327 (donkey meat soaked in tiger urine)

at 10/6/2005 4:25:41 PM, Jeff Chappell said:

Hey Ron, LOL, I draw the line at endangered species, so I wouldn’t be ordering tiger, anyway. Especially now that I know it might be donkey meat soaked in tiger urine. Yum! As for sea cucumber, I had that in Japan at some point; I don’t remember the dish, but I remember asking someone what “namako” was, and it turned out to be the sea cucumber, aka the sea slug …

at 10/7/2005 1:30:09 AM, Scot Tripp said:

Please don’t ever mention sea cucumber (slug) again! I had it last year in Korea and it was so disgusting I have to head for the mens’ room just thinking about it. I can eat pretty well anything, but that was!!!!!!!!

at 10/7/2005 2:03:28 AM, Hong Wu said:

Hi Jeff, I tried almost the entire “Traveling the Silicon Road” website but still couldn’t find your email address. Anyway, here is mine: <hwu1052c@yahoo.com.cn>. Would like to talk to you in Shanghai, too. BTW, when will you stay in Shanghai?

at 10/7/2005 1:02:36 PM, Dan Tracy said:

I had the fish testicle dish in Japan too. Wasn’t bad, though I would not go out of my way to order it. I have had some great meals in China, at large restaurants and at small local shops. If it something I have never seen before, I usually go ahead and eat without asking…perhaps better not to know.

at 10/8/2005 5:26:04 PM, Jeff Chappell said:

Hey, Hong Wu, sorry about that. I just posted a link to my e-mail address in my most recent post, at the bottom, and here it is again: jchappell@reedbusiness.com. Unfortunately, for security reasons, we can’t insert html-links into this comments section like I can with an actual blog plost, but you can cut and paste, or use the link in the Oct. 8 blog entry. I’ll contact you directly with my Shanghai dates, so we can plan to meet.

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