Time out with T.O. - An eating adventure

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BEIJING - As a meat and potatoes guy, traveling to China is a pretty tall order.

As the UNMC delegation meets with its various Chinese partners, we learn very quickly what Chinese hospitality is all about - food, food and more food.

The Chinese show their gratitude for visitors traveling great distances by rolling out a feedbag unlike anything you will ever see.

The standard fare typically includes about 30 courses.

Yes, I said 30 courses.

The presentation is absolutely amazing. Each dish comes out looking like a Julia Child masterpiece.

Therein lies the problem for simple folk like myself. You see, before I put something into my mouth, there is one important rule I follow -- I must know what the heck it is.

The typical Chinese meal is served at a large round table with a rotating Lazy Susan in the middle. Each course is delivered by the wait staff and placed on the Lazy Susan.

For the adventurous eater such as Howard Fox, M.D., Ph.D., senior associate dean for research in the College of Medicine, it's pure ecstasy.

For others, like me and Tammy Kielian, Ph.D., professor, pathology/microbiology, it can be sheer terror.

What looks to be a simple piece of meat can quickly turn into a big mistake.

"I thought it was sausage covered in sauce," said Ken Bayles, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for basic science research. "As soon as I put it in my mouth, I realized it was about 90 percent bone."

Sausage -- nope. Would you believe duck neck? Yum.

It becomes a bit of a chess match. You don't want to insult your gracious hosts by not eating, so you keep an eye on the Lazy Susan for anything that looks safe. Then, you load up.

The idea is to have something on your plate at all times, so at least it looks like you're eating.

Ineptitude with chopsticks is actually a blessing. While others are snarfing down one bite after the next, I'm fumbling around with my food. If it was football, I'd be penalized for delay of game.

Traditionally, the last course served is watermelon.

When I see the watermelon placed on the table, it's like the weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders.

Funny -- I never realized I liked watermelon that much until I got to China.


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Sherry Martin
November 07, 2013 at 8:21 AM

Very well described and a joy to read. Thank you.