Friday, September 22, 2006

A Little More Conversation, a Little Less Action, Please!

Work is going slowly today. The fact that it's going at all is a minor miracle. Sunglasses and very quiet music are the order of the day after a lively night last night.

Through family friends, one of whom is a very well renowned sculptor and the other an academic, I was invited for dinner with a top Chinese science academician. This is a big honor and I was a little nervous about the meeting. Arriving at the Szechuan restaurant we were taken to one of the private rooms, the most lavish I've seen yet, with a round table for ten or so, an emperor's style bed and its own private bathroom. We chatted until the great man arrived. Making small talk and attempting to use a little Chinese, food was ordered and wine procured. The wine was moutai, an infamous devil of a spirit, with a price-tag as high as its proof.

(JES can skip the following paragraph)

Amongst the dishes was a new one for me. I can now tick camel off the list of the weird and wonderful. Camel foot is a strange combination of textures and flavours, it's a little tough with fatty attachments and doesn't taste all that strong. In searching for information on how it had been cooked I came across this website boasting information on some of the world's strangest foods. I'm doing pretty well, but not that well apparently. Doing a little research on wikipedia it turns out that while the camel does not fall under the cloven hoof criteria, it is considered unclean and banned in the Torah. It also appears that some recent cases of eating raw camel liver have resulted in human plague, great! Most camel meat is extremely fat free because almost all the fat is in the hump, however it appears that the foot still has its fair share.

Toasting in China is big business and when the host toasts in your direction you drink. Our host likes his Moutai and can take it. Somehow whenever anything of any positive nature was mentioned, be that food, mountains, friends, Chinese history, Moutai, travel...we drank to it. Gambei is the equivalent of bottoms up, so every toast you finish your drink. After 15 or so I lost count and it was only because of the speed of consumption and relatively early finish to the meal that I didn't have time to embarrass myself completely. I really enjoyable night chatting about many things, meeting new people and trying some new delicacies, until I got home and paid the inevitable price.

Still, I'm in work and attempting to finish the calculation that I started many months ago with my Japanese collaborator. Life and other calculations have simply got in the way but I now want to push to finish this one off.


Away from tales of dangerous Chinese liquors I have a couple of good friends staying here at the moment, having arrived at the beginning of the week on the train from Moscow. I'm still not sure what they thought of the trip which I'd like to take some day. Six days going through what sounds like rather barren countryside on a very dusty train with just a few minutes here and there to buy supplies from the platforms seems a bit too quick so I would hope to stop off a couple of times on the way to see what little there is to see.

One of these friends is not only vegetarian, a problem in itself in China, but she's also exceedingly allergic to nuts. So much so that she carries a needle round with her in case of going into anaphylactic shock . I've given her a Chinese note to be taken round at all times and shown to waiters wherever she goes to eat. Thus far she hasn't been laughed out of a restaurant by what is a rather rare request here. I'm told that there are very very few Chinese people with this particular allergy, I fear I may know why!

Plenty of photos to put up soon but I should be finishing this mathematica script for now.


Anonymous said...

I too have eaten a camel hoof but thought it tasted different to how you describe.

Anonymous said...

Happy new year Biscuit! Enjoying the tales of fine wine, fine cuisine and the resultant not-feeling-fine. Chin-chin!

Unknown said...

Many thanks, and to you too. If funds ever allow I shall attempt to take back a bottle for sample some time.

All the best,


Anonymous said...

(Sorry for the random-ness of this post)…

Four months ago I posted on many blogs, letting everyone know that we were trying to start a podcast (Rabbit Hole Daily) by people who had emigrated to other countries…

I thought it would be interesting to share all of our “misadventures” and news… I had hoped to get a contributor to/from every continent (i.e., a Brazilian in Japan, a Japanese person in France, a French person in Australia, etc.).

People leave their respective home-countries for all kinds of reasons; some people marry a “foreigner” and leave their country, some people take a job or do academic research out of their country, some are forced to leave for political reasons, some do it for the adventure. The podcast was designed to welcome all of these points of view. We’ve been working with mixed success to get all types of voices…

Podcasts are a great way to get complex stories out that would never make it onto tv or radio, and we’d like to use the medium to create something that’s informative, eclectic, and interesting, all voices and topics welcome (provided they’re well-written)!

At any rate, I’m writing to renew my call for contributors and say that we’re still around. We were accepted by itunes, we’ve been publishing consistently, and although we’ve had some technical concerns (people write articles, read them into a mic, then get them to me via internet or skype; getting it all edited evenly has been a challenge), we’ve just received some equipment donations by listeners that will make it possible to produce with ever-better audio quality.

Please consider listening to the podcast, and more importantly, contributing articles. (Articles are 2-3 pages, submitted 4-6 times per year, contributors are featured on our “contributor profiles” page, rules for contributing can be found on the “contribute here” portion.) If you know someone who has emigrated from their country of origin and is a good writer, please pass the word!