A few thoughts about food
Food safety in Taiwan is alarming. The recent episodes remind me of something that happened a long time ago.
At the time, I was still at college in Hsingchu. Those were the martial law days and students didn't have the same freedom to say what they wanted, or do what they wanted, as students do today. The only time they could make noise was during the monthly meetings on food at the canteens.
One time, there were talks on campus about mouse meat allegedly being used in steamed buns. A lot of students rebuked the canteen operator at the monthly meeting for being immoral. During the period of martial law, the vocabulary used for criticising others was not so varied, nor that mean. To accuse someone of being immoral was already very strong.
Faced with agitated young students, the canteen operator replied calmly, "Where was I going to find so much mouse meat for the buns? Besides, why did I serve it to you instead of leaving it for myself if the meat was so good?" No one knew what to say after hearing his light-hearted argument. The steamed-bun crisis subsided as a result.
Later on we learned that the canteen operator was from Guangdong province where the people are known for their special interest in exotic gourmet meat. The story was so widely circulated that it became considered a fact that Cantonese people eat anything with four legs.
Recently I saw a member of staff peeling off small pieces from a broken table leg on campus during the lunch hour. Seeing my curiosity, she said, "Once washed, it can be cooked in soup for medicinal purposes. It clears heat and dispels dampness."
Is this true? I thought tables and chairs were excluded when they talked about anything with four legs being edible. Not in my wildest imagination would I have thought even four-legged tables and table legs could be used for cooking soup!
This article was originally published in Chinese in the United Daily News (31 October, 2014).
5 January, 2015