Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Grocery Store Adventuring

Celebrating Thanksgiving in another country is quite a difficult feat. Especially when the country you are living in is not inhabited by Turkeys. People just sort of stare at me blankly with gradually dawning amusment while I make an ass of myself gobbling and making vague hand gestures meant to indicate a waddle. (Thats what its called, right? That bird jowl that turkeys have?)

Anyway, if there were Chinese turkeys, I'm sure Chinese folks would enjoy eating them in much greater detail than we do in the States (as they do all other sorts of unmentionable bits of the turkey's fair fowl brethren. I have actually consumed Chicken testicle soup and boiled chicken feet. I rest my case.)I was able to find a turkey, but not a fresh one that I'll have to dismember with one of my multiple handy dandy cleavers. It's a 12 pound Jenny-Oh that has been air lifted here for the occasion. I'll let you know how it all turns out. We'll be celebrating with two Chinese people, a Frenchman, an Indonesian, and a Tawainese/American. So wish us luck explaining about the Pilgrims and Indians and why we choose this day to eat pies made with vegetables.

All of this searching for western ingredients has me ruminating on the Chinese Grocery store experience. I should point out that the grocery stores I frequent aren't really truly very Chinese. We often go to Carrefour which I believe is a French import. Wal-Mart is a place I would never set foot in at home, but here they have a nice selection of coffee and imported Danish butter cookies. I have no idea where the Jusco chain is from, but I go there every few days because its the nearest Western style grocery store accessible by subway.

I say they are not "truly" Chinese because they are considered morbidly expensive by most of our Chinese acquaintances. Also, much of the meat comes wrapped already, which is a huge turn off to the people here who are so obsessed with freshness that they prefer to take their dinner home alive and butcher it themselves. (You were paying attention to my meat cleaver post, right?) So these stores have the nice bright lighting, convenient grocery carts and white linoleum of their American and European counterparts, but are brimming with items that are totally unrecognizable to me.

I am not joking when I say an ordinary trip to the grocery store is a total adventure. I feel like a bit of a jerk posting these photos that I took at the grocery store, but they do so much more to describe the experience than I could. The trappings are all familiar, but the items on the shelves might as well be from Mars. Obviously, the packaging is all in Chinese and the little English that is available is more like an E.E Cummings poem than a description. "Fried bureau aspects deserves powder" Bet you wouldn't have guessed that that was a package of Ramen noodles, would you?

Here is a display of apples and persimmons. I've yet to try one, but my wikepedia search tells me they are related to oranges and figs.

Here is the selection of miscellaneous organs. I couldn't even venture a guess as to which creature they originated from, much less what dish to prepare with them.

Chicken feet are the only food we've tried here that I violently objected too. There is something totally vile about putting a claw, toenails intact, into one's mouth. But 1.5 Billion Chinese people would beg to differ. These are considered a delicious treat, especially at morning tea (which we Americans call Dim Sum) I've had them boiled (they turn all puffy and white) and barbequed (ever so slightly more palatable) but both times they struck me as a lot of work for not very much reward. Chicken Feet are a huge export from the United States (we don't want 'em and Chinese folks do, capitalism works!)

There are a lot of really beautiful things too. This is some sort of spice or tea. It looks to me like something that should be in a bowl of potpourri.

This one looks suspiciously like dirt. Or Paint Pigment. I think it might actually be some sort of poppyseed flour.

And these look like sea sponges but smell like sardines. I think they might be dehydrated intestinal machinery, but this is all guesswork.

I'm having lots of fun finding my way around, buying things here and there and expanding our palates. I feel like Peter Mayle must have felt when he moved to Provence; simultaneously awestruck, dumbstruck and a little lovestruck.


Brandon Till said...

Very funny stuff and Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the chicken claws, dirt, and poupuri!

Anonymous said...

Dear B,
Persimmons are wonderful but have to be dead
ripe,almost rotten otherwise they taste like a
mouthful of fuzz. I have a few recipes if you want to
experiment with them. The tree/bushes are one of the
glories of So. Cal. winters, all the leaves fall off
leaving just the orange fruits hanging against that
blue blue sky.
The chicken parts are left side, gizzards, the "teeth"
of the chicken and right hearts. Gizzards are one of
gpa's favorite thanksgiving treats! The only organs I
care for are the livers really briefly sauteed and the
pan deglazed with a little blueberry vinegar...hope
your feast turned out beautiful and yummy too.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...