Saturday, June 4, 2011

Live Fish and Dead Chickens

Thankfully, our second trip to the pool was much more successful. We made it there and back without a single tantrum. Rebecca and Jonathan are still painfully slow with the bikes—they walk up and down every single hill and both need to have the pedals lined up in exactly the proper way to start again. The pool was green by the second day—they don’t use chlorine and we’re told that in a few days the algae and muck will make it unswimmable. This time it was full of
Chinese men smoking IN the pool—a nice touch.

This morning I was all set to go for a short run and finish dealing with copyedits on an article when the next-door neighbor, Sumi, appeared with her motor bike wanting to take me to the market to give me a proper introduction and solve some market mysteries. She suggested I drive since I’m taller—this seemed like a bad plan, so I hoped on the back. The garden and the town were quite crowded this morning. Today is the beginning of the dragon boat festival-which is not observed in town since we are in a Dai region but seems none the less to require a huge police presence—they are everywhere. The graduate students are also apparently up to something, but none of the faculty—including the Chinese—know what. No one here seems very clear on what the festival celebrates but it has something to do with the suicide of the 4th century poet Qu Yuan. Festivities involve drinking wine, racing dragon boats, and eating sticky rice rolled up in banana leaves.

The market was bustling with Dai families coming in from the countryside and carrying produce, animals, and goods on tricycle pick up trucks and baskets hanging from their shoulders. Sumi was especially excited to show me where to buy chicken breasts and catfish. Jonathan told her he would eat those things and his translucent skinniness is of some concern to the other women in the compound—mothers and nanny’s alike. (given that our kids tower over the other kids here I’m not sure why his particularly skinyyness is such a focus but….) We stopped for delicious dim sum type buns on the way and headed for the chicken lady. I learned that the way to get chicken breasts is to grab your own breasts and kind of shake/massage them and then says the amount of kilos you want. I saw at least six other women do this. Can men even buy these? The next stop was fish, where I was told to stay away from the dead fish and pick the live ones. Admittedly, when when one of the live ones leapt out of the water and touched me I squealed. We picked two swimming fish and the fish lady cleaned them up for us. We also passed live chickens, and dead chickens complete with feathers etc… That’s not for me…. She showed me which vendor to get rice and flour from, explaining that the ones with bins closer to the ground are problematic because the dogs pee in them. The various cooking instructions were themselves an exercise in multiple translations since I was getting them from an Indonesian woman living in a Dai area of China. I also learned that the green and spinach leafy stuff is actually spinach and the giant blocks of red/brown stuff is blood—we didn’t buy that. The rotisserie birds hanging in the market are Peking duck. I was told to buy the one still on the grill—fairly recently alive and it comes chopped up with little sauces. I haven’t opened the bag; I’m thinking it still has head and feet and while I’m now willing to buy but I’m not ready to touch.

1 comment:

  1. I think navigating food shopping and preparation is one of the most interesting parts of living abroad. Doing it with children along really ups the ante. It sounds like you are being bold and doing a great job.