Chicken toenails, anyone?

David Sedaris would eat Chinese food – but only as an alternative to starving. So a visit to China was always going to be tricky…

David Sedaris on China and Chinese food, an article from The Guardian.

“I have to go to China.” I told people this in the way I might say, “I need to insulate my crawl space” or, “I’ve got to get these moles looked at.” That’s the way it felt, though. Like a chore. What initially put me off was the food. I’ll eat it if the alternative means starving, but I’ve never looked forward to it, not even when it seemed exotic to me.


I was in my early 20s when a Chinese restaurant opened in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was in a new building, designed to look vaguely templish, and my mother couldn’t get enough of it. “What do you say we go oriental!”


I think she liked that the food was beyond her range. Anyone could imitate the twice-baked potatoes at the Peddler, or turn out a veal parmesan like the Villa Capri’s, but there was no way a non-Chinese person could make moo shu pork, regardless of his or her training. “And the egg rolls,” she’d say. “Can you imagine!”


The restaurant didn’t have a liquor licence, but they allowed you to brown bag. Thus we’d arrive with our jug of hearty burgundy. I always got my mother to order for me, but when the kung pao chicken was brought to the table, I never perked up the way I did at the steak house or the Villa Capri. And it wasn’t just Raleigh’s Chinese food. I was equally uninterested in Chicago and, later, New York, cities with actual China Towns.


Everyone swore that the food in Beijing and Chengdu would be different from what I’d had in the US. “It’s more real,” they said, meaning, it turned out, that I could dislike it more authentically.

Read the rest here.



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