David Sedaris Eats China

I lurve David Sedaris. I fondly remember reading Me Talk Pretty Someday, laughing hysterically with tears streaming down my face, and my husband looking at me like I had lost my mind.

So I was thrilled to come across a piece of his about a trip to China and his thoughts on the food (here). I’ve always suspected that the food there is very different from the gloppy, cloyingly sweet orange chicken we have over here. I imagine there are lots of eyeballs, feet, and unidentifiable parts. And sure enough:

As far as I know there wasn’t a menu. Rather, the family worked at their convenience, with whatever was handy or in season. There was a rooster parading around the backyard and then there just wasn’t. After the cook had slit its throat, he used it as the base for five separate dishes, one of which was a dreary soup with two feet, like inverted salad tongs, sticking out of it. Nothing else was nearly as recognisable.

What could be more primal than that?!

Instead of merely describing the gross-out food and being a typical ugly American abroad, Sedaris makes some broader points about food:

Another dish was made entirely of organs, which again had been hacked beyond recognition. The heart was there, the lungs, probably the comb and intestines as well. I don’t know why this so disgusted me. If I was a vegetarian, OK, but if you’re a meat eater, why draw these arbitrary lines? “I’ll eat the thing that filters out toxins but not the thing that sits on top of the head, doing nothing?” And why agree to eat this animal and not that one?

Indeed. That being said, those aversions run deep. Yes, the lines may be arbitrary, but they are carved in neuro pathways hooked directly into our gag reflex. I’m having trouble introducing liver, so I can’t imagine what a gustatory tour through China would do to me. But someday, I’d like to try (see here for my piece on my dream vacation). Maybe I’ll practice before I go with some gelatinous blood or Menudo.

Have you had any interesting food experiences, either here or abroad?


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