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Day 139 – Eat Everything (On Taking The Food High Ground)

July 20, 2010

Dateline: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) – Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My number one rule when trying to decide on whether I should eat something is this: If the person offering it to me is eating and enjoying it, I’ll give it a try. If someone else digs it, I can respect them enough to at least give it a shot. This is why I haven’t eaten rat even though it was on a menu in Can Tho, Vietnam. It’s also why I didn’t try skewered grubs in China. Perhaps someday. Till then, I remain blissfully ignorant.

Tonight when I walked up to the hotel, I wasn’t planning on another food adventure. Surprise, appears to be the best way to push your food boundaries. A guy who works for the hotel and a Vietnamese guy visiting from the U.S. were sitting out front on little plastic chairs, having a sidewalk snack. They invited me to sit.

I ate. It was pretty good. One preparation, involving a leaf wrapped around a charred piece of meat was okay. The better option was the barbequed dish. Smokey, fatty, and a tad sweet. Spicy if you opted for the sauce. If I had qualms about what I was eating, the continuous shots of milky rice wine soon did away with those. I do like rice wine.

I am, of course, talking about another round with the dog. What can I say? I’m a sucker when it comes to eating in groups. I’ve eaten with these guys before, so it was hard to turn them down. My hotel worker friend is from the north, where this is a delicacy. He watched me carefully as I ate. I think he expected the American to wretch. I didn’t and the rice wine, happy toasts, and street side revelry continued from there.

The Vietnamese guy going to school in the U.S. (a fellow hotel guest) noted that what we were doing was probably a crime in the States. Not sure about that, but it’s not something I’d lead with on a blind date or a Senate confirmation hearing.

Food is culturally dependent. Cannibalism aside (reserved for special occasions, like plane crashes on remote, snow covered mountains or Catholic communion), just about every culture has something outsiders think is gross or weird. The only reason you think mayo on fries is disgusting is that you’re not Dutch. The only reason you like tomatoes on your sandwich and not in your fruit salad is because you’re not Chinese. The only reason you don’t like grubs is your mother didn’t put them on the spoon airplane and fly them into your mouth hangar. “VVrrrrooooom. . .here comes the wriggly larvae. Yum!” The only reason you like peanut butter at all is you’re American (secret: the most of the world thinks it’s disgusting).

There is no right or wrong when it comes to food. There is “cruel” or “risky” but there is nothing moral about eating one thing over another.

There’s only one group of people that can claim any moral high ground with it comes to eats and they’re all the kind of people who wouldn’t mind living in a beige colored world and feel no need to explore music beyond Sarah McLachlan. In other words, vegetarians.

Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are vegetarians (e.g. my mom). Vegetarians are humans too (otherwise eating them wouldn’t be cannibalism), therefore they have a right to their opinion. I just think their opinion—when it comes to moral superiority in food—is wrong. It is also sad. And asocial. And culturally imperialistic. They’ve given up experiencing all the riches this world has to offer so they can turn their noses up at omnivores that don’t eat like them.

I have one thing to say to that: “Please pass the meat, my friend.”

GALLERY: No pictures today. Come back tomorrow.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. July 28, 2010 1:50 pm

    Wowsers!!

    That one is going to make you a LOT of friends!

    🙂

    • July 28, 2010 9:57 pm

      My vegetarian friends will understand. I’m not saying vegetarianism is wrong, I’m saying looking down on those who aren’t is silly. It’s a matter of luck where you were born and what you think is “normal.”

      Or were you talking about the dog thing? 😉

      • July 28, 2010 11:27 pm

        Nope. It’s this that I was referencing:

        “I just think their opinion—when it comes to moral superiority in food—is wrong. It is also sad. And asocial. And culturally imperialistic. They’ve given up experiencing all the riches this world has to offer so they can turn their noses up at omnivores that don’t eat like them.”

        The first sentence is judgmental, if only to a degree – I’m quite sure that not every vegetarian feels morally superior to omnivores. I know that no one in my family did, when we went vegetarian for decades.

        If the rest of the paragraph refers only to the “morally superior” bunch, then I have no real beef (no pun intended)…but it wasn’t immediately obvious to me that that was your intent. Re-reading it now, I see that it could be read that way, and I’m betting that’s what you meant…but it also could be read as aimed at vegetarians generally, and that’s what I was referring to. You might want to clarify things a little bit – don’t you know vegetarians that don’t go around pulling the “I’m morally superior” act…..? Of course, I know the other kind, too.

        Distinctions are everything!

        🙂

      • July 29, 2010 3:51 am

        Hhhmm. . .I see what you mean. Let me clarify, then. I was referring to vegetarians who feel morally superior to people who have grown up or chosen to eat meat. Giving up social experiences that accompany food and missing out on all new wondrous tastes that come with meat seems like a high price for feeling morally superior. Especially when I think that moral superiority is unfounded.

        I was not referring to people who must give up meat for health or religious reasons. If someone thinks that meat’s killing them or that meat is a deal breaker with their God, I’m not going to argue with that. I also don’t begrudge people for choosing to eat only meat that’s been killed humanely. Those are all life choices. It just irks me when vegetarians act like omnivores are evil for eating meat. It drives me mad when they go out of their way to “preach” their message. It’s the libertarian in me.

        Bottom line, there are good, likable vegetarians out there, including my mother.

  2. sally permalink
    July 28, 2010 4:21 pm

    YOU ATE A DOG?! I’m Korean and I think that’s wrong. Every time I look at you I’m going to think “that’s the f-er who ate my puppy.”

    • July 28, 2010 9:59 pm

      Look, someone was going to eat it. Just so happened one of those someone’s was me.

      And for sure it wasn’t a puppy because puppies don’t have enough. . .awe, never mind. I’ll stop while I’m still your friend.

      • sally permalink
        July 30, 2010 11:25 am

        I am now showing my dog a picture of you and saying “Filipino version of Michael Vick!”

  3. Jimbo permalink
    July 29, 2010 3:09 pm

    It is interesting that no matter the culture, taboo foods are almost always animal based.

    • July 31, 2010 9:44 pm

      You’re right. Most cultures at least have the taboo of eating the human animal. It would be weird to hear that a culture finds it disgusting to eat some kind of plant.

      Of course, I’m thinking linearly by confining taboos to organics. Is there a taboo for eating plastic?

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