Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan


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The Premature Opening of the Four Seasons Hotel

Fiona and I went to the opening celebration of the brand new Sheraton hotel this evening. It was a somewhat surreal event given that the hotel is still essentially a building site, but nether the less, within the giant arches of this concrete labyrinth were some twenty large circular tables filled with food and surrounded by foremen, architects, business owners, workmen, and managers of the hotel. We arrived quite late into the meal around 8pm, and by this time many of the guests were sufficiently intoxicated, more so than a Geordie at closing time. As is the tradition, we were guided around each table of 10 unknown people and shared a toast with all 20 tables. I’ll try and get some pictures of the night, but this photo by Laurie is essentially what the hotel looks like currently.

The food was catered by one of the best places in Penghu, and as ever, the giant platters of food could barely fit on the table before a new dish arrived and a partially touched platter would depart.


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All About Food….And Stinky Tofu

I’ll be the first to admit that i’m no foodie. My idea of a sandwich is to get a slice of bread, slap some spread somewhere within the perimeter of the crust, and then proceed to fill it with a wet substance (mayo/coleslaw/chutney) an animal product (cheese/meat) and then some texture to top it off,(iceberg lettuce/crisps). I then mash the bread in half and consume.  Food is not something I go to bed thinking about, and is rarely the first thing I think of upon waking, (unless there is Crunchy Nut and/or Coco Pops in the cupboard).

Having been a gym monkey since my gap year (although not this past year), food was just fuel to me, grouping my meals into carbs and protein.  I remember buying my first protein shake in 2007 at Soccer Sports, Exeter. I felt like a criminal procuring steroids, trying my best to hide my purchases like “someone” buying x.small condoms.  Now they are omnipresent and can be bought in every supermarket and are quaffed by anyone serious about working out.  Protein shakes further debased my values of food, and everything since has been compared to a 500ml serving, (one tin of tuna, one pint of milk, a chicken breast etc).

I’ve always known that diet and nutrition were the key factors for achieving your goals in the gym, but the idea of preparing healthy filling meals was never very appealing, especially on a student budget.  This is the main difference between movie stars who get huge for a film, and regular Joe’s who go to the gym each day.  If the nutrition isn’t there, then you can only realistically achieve ~20% of your goals. Clearly no sane person should eat 8-10 small meals a day, starting at 4am like Hugh Jackman did for Wolverine, but this is the way they do it.

 Anyway, I have taken a giant discourse from the initial idea of this post, and that was to talk about Asian food and how concepts are very different over here.

I’ve been told that there is no such word for calorie in asian culture, (This is surely not true considering it is noted on all food in 7-eleven).  The idea of calorie counting is certainly not obvious, although I look around and see very few fatties,(<5%) and women tend to be ectomorphically thin and easily confused for children, (that last sentence sounds a bit weird).  So what are they doing that we rotund westerners are not?

Rice

First off, rice is very much their staple carb, much like pasta is to a student and chips are to a fat kid. However, in the home, it is rarely fried like we see in the UK, and is often eaten plain. In restaurants, it is scarcely eaten, making room for other sumptuous delights instead. Also, the bowls used are about half the size of cereal bowels, so you are limited to how much you can have.

Second, vegetables are not tacked on to a meal to satisfy your guilt, but rather central to the meal.  Steamed cabbage, spinach, and other dark greens are present at each sitting, and fruit is always within easy reach for afterwards.

Dessert

This is where I miss the UK. Dessert, milk and cheese.  Three things that probably account for my ever diminishing BMI. I dream of mince pies, chocolate gateau’s, cheese toasties, milk moustaches,spraying whipped cream directly into my mouth and spooning brandy butter straight from the pot. Here, desert is either fruit, or recently, hong dou tang (red bean soup).  Imagine pouring the contents of a kidney bean tin into a saucepan, heating, and adding sugar to taste.  Surprisingly nice and warming, but somehow negates to fill the metal requirement for some form of chocolatey stimulus.  A trip to the bakery will result in buns that hint of a chocolate centre, only to be deceived by this very same filling of red bean curd. The kids eat this stuff without any resistance and obviously don’t know what they’re missing (Fruit n’Nut Cadbury chocolate and Toblerones).

Drink

And now for drink. There are no rows of Dr Pepper, Coke, Sprite, 7-Up, or VK and WKD for the kiddies.  Although you can purchase Coke and Sprite, these are confined to two lonely fridge spaces, and the majority of shelving is given over to every cold tea under the sun.  Green,black,red, oolong, with every flavour combination for each.  Next to them are the soy milks (my new favourite drink), and finally some form of pro biotic containing bifidus digestivum and L.cassie immunitas. I drink at least one Yakult a day which in the UK would result in bankruptcy pretty soon.

Stinky Tofu

Lastly, they have this substance known as chou doufu (stinky tofu) which anyone who has travelled to the East will surely have encountered, and probably put them off visiting again.  It’s sold on many street corners, and is infamous amongst foreigners who detest the smell.  The locals don’t seem to care, but it would be the first thing I would ban if I were in power.  Imagine concentrating the combined smell of 5 day old Camembert with a pungent Stilton.  Heat this smell in your brain to volitise it, and you are someway to how repulsive it is.  However, I am ashamed to say that I haven’t tried it yet, (much like line dancing) but I hear that it’s not that bad,(much like line dancing).

So it is clear how they are all so thin and have legs like supermodels.  Small portions of rice, copious supplies of fruit and vegetables, and fresh fish eaten regularly.  As long  as you limit your trips to street vendors, you could easily live to one hundred (and look 40) if you can successfully dodge the scooters.