Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Food Just Lying Around

I'm swamped with work and studies over here, so while I try to update more-or-less weekly, it may take a few more days before I can make a full update. In the meantime, here's a quick update about food just lying around my apartment complex. I got a bunch of responses from my earlier picture of food and laundry drying on the line together. Well here's an alternate take at the same image:



Kind of disgusting, right? The worst thing about it is there's no clear path to get to the nearby convenience stores, or the bootleg DVD place. You kind of have to walk around the hanging meat. One of my neighbors is very considerate and although they always seem to be drying meat, they do it behind the bars on their window:



You can barely tell that's fish drying above. I hope they didn't catch it themselves as I can't imagine you'd want to eat any fish caught in Shanghai waters. The meat below is more fresh, in fact last weekend I saw this guy kill and de-feather a couple chickens, right near my front door. Not having been raised on a farm or in a Shanghai apartment complex, I had never seen that before. Me and a couple kids stood around in rapt attention. In the end I still don't know why you'd want to dry freshly-killed chicken, but it looks vaguely HR Giger:



Maybe most disgusting of all is the following, although it takes a little cultural understanding. The ground in Shanghai is tabu. There is no 5 second law. Between people spitting and the garbage on the street and a few other things I'd rather not mention, anything touching the ground is hopelessly contaminated with a large range of germs not yet studied by science. So to see somebody willfully ignoring this taboo and drying their bok choy on the ground is, to me, mind-shattering.



It's worth saying that food lying about is the highly visible exception to the rule - most people in Shanghai don't do that, and of course restaurants don't, or at least I hope they don't. As ever, click on the picture to see a larger version. Also, I'll be making some minor changes to old updates, for accuracy. Originally I wanted to keep all mistakes, as some kind of comment on what I knew and what I had wrong. However I decided that was a silly idea.

4 comments:

dave-o said...

I don't get the whole drying meat concept.... why does meat need to dry exactly? Are they trying to perserve it? make jerky or something? do they not have fridges? or why don't they just cook it up? I have never personally had the urge to dry my meat... maybe someone can explain...

curiouser and curiouser...

Jeff Rutsch said...

I must admit, I wonder the same thing. With the bok choy, or with chilies although I don't have a picture, drying them changes the texture. With the fish, yeah, I think they're making jerkey. With the other meat, I really have no idea. I don't think it's just a matter of not owning a refrigerator, or why would you need to hang it? But it's not hanging for more than a few hours, maybe half a day. I'll have to ask around.

acidelic said...

I asked my wife about this because I just didn't see the sense in drying foods, but she said it is very common because not everybody has refrigerators. They buy the food when it is available, dry it out and they can use it over a long period of time. Her family moved to the US and still dries some foods.

Jeff Rutsch said...

Thanks acidelic - I asked a local about it and she says pretty much the same thing, adding that it's done all around China, that the sun improves the taste of the meat, and that it's too salty for her.