Oh, the places you’ve been

Have a look at the spiciest meal I have ever had. The rabbit (the dish in the foreground) was nothing in comparison to the spicy chicken dish, which was the first food that ever brought tears to my eyes.  It’s amazing what you find in your cupboards when you’re moving: in this case, a CD full of photos a friend from my REU in Beijing put together for all of us after we returned home.

It has been, oh, more than five years since that trip, but as I explained here, it was probably responsible for my current  obsession with food.  Despite my father’s adventurous (and usually experimental) talents in the kitchen, it wasn’t until I traveled all the way to Beijing that I started realizing that I had not yet stepped outside of the boundaries of my comfortable culinary existence.

I guess this is one of the reasons I’m enjoying Fushia Dunlop’s Shark’s Fins and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China.  I find familiarity in her initial explorations of Sichuan cuisine, and share her fascination with the unfamiliar flavors and textures that she encounters along the way.  I’m only about halfway through the book, but it already has me googling “Mandarin lessons, Sydney” and wondering if it’ll be easier to find cooking classes that I can actually afford to attend in a bigger city.  Obviously, I should wait to review the book properly, when I’m finished, but for now, all I can say is that her story has me thinking about adventures that I would probably have written off as too expensive, or silly, just a few years ago.  Now? I can’t wait to try something new, learn some new languages, explore a new cuisine… Oh, and plan some trips.

Yes, there will be trips — there is no doubt about that.

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6 Comments

Filed under China, stories, travel

6 responses to “Oh, the places you’ve been

  1. pshazz

    awwww! little ebeth!

    there are lots of things i spend money on now that i would have thought was silly or too expensive back in 2003. but our earning power has changed, and we’ve become more sophisticated in our tastes. this is a good thing.

    also. man, your mandarin will be better than mine!

    • liz

      true enough… but hahah– do you know how much I suck at languages? I promised James I’d learn French with him, too. But it’ll be worth it… So does that mean I can practice on you?

  2. pshazz

    i am terrible at languages too! my family doesn’t actually speak mandarin – though i took about two or three years of it, from i think ages 3 to 5 (or somewhere thereabouts). but i certainly don’t speak it. i’ve been thinking it’d be good for me to take classes again though.
    languages are always about memorizing, rather than intuiting knowledge, and i never want to know a language hard enough to actually sit down and memorize things. give me a babble fish any day.

    if you want to learn cantonese though, you can practice with me. i don’t promise not to laugh though. :) good naturedly of course.

  3. liz

    Yah, I assumed your family spoke Cantonese, though I admit I’m completely ignorant about how different Cantonese and Mandarin are, exactly. I was thinking Mandarin would be good for work. And, um, I also assume you’ll still know more than me for a while if you took it when you were young. I probably won’t even be able to hear my mispronunciations. That’s something that’s difficult to pick up after a certain age, I guess, if you weren’t exposed to a language when you were young. So… laugh away. :)

    Anyway, it’ll be good to try something new. I’m actually really excited about having a decent selection of city colleges in the area with affordable classes on offer. And if I have a good reason to learn a language, maybe that would be enough of an incentive to study? Mandarin for work, French for food…

  4. pshazz

    Well, they are pretty different. sometimes it’s just the pronunciation (but even that is pretty different), and other times the actual words. maybe it’s just because i know a bit of french, and i know english, but i would liken it to that. you’ve got a lot of roots that are the same for english and french, like egoiste / egotistical (why was that the first word that popped in my head? for the record, yes, i am! :-p) where you can kinda figure it out – but much harder if someone is rapidly speaking to you. and then you’ve got completely different words. it’s also tough because of slang of different areas.
    like, the way my parents say eggplant is really different because they way they say it is a slang word that has become the common name for them, but it is not even close to the way you say it in mandarin.

    and honestly, i have a terrible accent. it’s probably better for having spoken it since i was young, but native speakers still totally laugh at me and know i’m nowhere near native.

    i think you are much more diligent about studying than i am. i mean. i’m pretty damn lazy about it. i certainly had good reason to learn to speak spanish before i went to argentina, and i had a few months to pick up basics. but i’m still stuck on food basics and not much else. i got pimsleur and got bored of listening to it within a couple weeks. and it’s not even that hard, you just have to keep yourself from pushing the skip button!

    • liz

      So, common roots but not much else, then? I suppose I should have guessed, honestly.

      Haha… I am only diligent if I have to be. Hence the thought of taking a class. Because if I were stuck listening to pimsleur on my commute, I’m pretty sure I would give up after a week.

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