When I first traveled to China, I was warned about the food from many well-meaning people—some who had traveled to China and some who had not. I was told that I would starve if I did not take food in my suitcase, so I did. I took trail mix and hard candy nearly overloading my suitcase. It was just one of the stereotypes of China that I had heard and believed before I experienced true Chinese food for myself. For that first trip, I ended up throwing away most of the food that I had brought because I did not want to lug it back to the U.S.
I will admit that the food is different from what I normally eat—to be honest, it is definitely healthier. I found there to be a lot of vegetables, fish, and chicken—I never ate Dog or Cat at least to my knowledge. I ate at restaurants and I ate in factories. I ate what was put in front of me, and I stayed in places where my associates stayed. I had customers who went to China on their own for other products. They would not stay in anything but “Western Style” hotels and would not eat anything but “Western Style” food, and there are places in the larger cities, which have both. Some of them would even go as far as to not eat during the day with their hosts—rather waiting until they returned to their hotels for their “Western Style” food. I always felt that was rather rude to say the least and a bit disrespectful.
As for the food itself, I found it to be, for the most part, rather tasty. I took my hosts advice and did not drink the tap water. I drank bottled water, their very excellent hot tea, and a lot of their extremely appealing Chinese beer. The food was normally brought out as it was prepared and put on a Lazy Susan. Everyone turned it until the food they wanted was in front of them and then put it on their plates or ate it over, or on, a bowl of steamed white rice. We ate a lot in restaurants in private rooms, which I truly enjoyed. There was no outside noise, and the atmosphere was more personal. When I ate in factories, it was what the employees ate and in their dining area—each experience was unique and enjoyable. I learned to use Chopsticks at least enough to get food from the plate to my mouth. Although people keep bringing me utensils, I stuck with the Chopsticks while in the country. I “never” got sick from anything that I ate or drank in China, which is more than I can say for my normal diet.
The food is just one of the misconceptions of China and its people. I believed what I was told until I experienced it myself—not unlike other things in my life that I have been told by others only to be dispelled once I experienced it personally.
If you would like to read other guest posts by Bob Grant, start with They All Look Alike