Alas, the time for beating around bushes is over. There will be no more circumlocution, side-stepping or issue-avoidance: I'm fat. Travelling to China has had the same effect on me as dropping a puppy into a bag full of dog food, then acting surprised when it can roll out. I'm not exactly american looking yet, but the fact remains that a healthy action hero should only have this profile if he's carrying a couple of ammo belts under his T-shirt. Unless Earth is invaded by a race of aliens improbably allergic to pasty white lard I can't really claim this extra weight as weaponry.
I was thinking "Man, and I don't even have any strange food stories to report for all these extra kilos", but then I realised that it's just that my definition of "Strange" has been utterly destroyed by my time here. You have to wonder what's happened to your digestive system when a diet including the following doesn't seem a little odd anymore:
tentacle on a stick (gorgeous)
shark fin soup
Today was in particular a day of awesome food, walking with Xin along a really busy and authentic street buying food from street vendors. An absolute lack of tourists despite being only three blocks from an international youth hostel - the fact that those blocks are composed entirely of narrow drenched alleyways, homicidal taxis and large rows of baskets of what appear to be dried fish faces (appearances are not deceptive) seem to act as an "Anti-tourist shield". Foods acquired in this wonderland include:
The aforemetioned tentacles-on-a-stick! Squid tentacles grilled with chilli sauce and honestly more delicious than anything I've had in a long time, costing less than 50 cents and better than things some places serve on silver platters. They also look exactly like what people picture when they think of crazy foreign food, complete with little suckers and twisting shapes.
There was also other parts of squid on a stick, also delicious, but no tentacles so it's hardly worth mentioning I suppose.
The chinese had a devilish idea for a fruit-flavoured lolly that roundly sidesteps our fat frogs, our twisters and even our most fiendish E-code colourings. When they want to make a fruit flavoured pop - they actually put a load of pieces of fruit on a pop stick, then coat the whole thing in sugary syrup. And when I say coat, I mean that when I bought it I went to take off the shiny cellophane wrapper only to discover that it was A LAYER OF PURE SUGAR. Needless to say, incredible childlike happiness ensued.
Beef three star soup - I could try and describe the incredible spicy and savoury flavour of this soup, but I think it paints a better picture of my true feelings if I say that if that soup was to appear in Toronto in a couple of weeks, time would slow down while powerful piano music plays and I run towards it with my arms out for a great big hug/drink. I may in fact be crying at the time, though the combat between my sheer manliness (prevents crying) and the deliciousness of that soup (encourages it) could very well be the conflict that ends the world, not anything to do with people fighting over holy patches of desert.
Ginger mixed with milk. Yes, I know, that shouldn't work. God it does. Man, these dishes all deserve some kind of four paragraph delicious discussion fit for a food guide, but the best I can manage right now is rubbing my great big brand new belly and going "mmmmm, lovely". This is a combination of the sheer amount of food I've had recently, the fact I haven't been writing much (too busy avoiding death by vehicle while seeing the sights), and the minor contribution of the atrophication of my English language ability. I've been at a load of family dinners here where I'm pretty much treated like some rare species of Irish bear: they're happy as long as they can feed me something and pose for photos, and if I don't maul anyone that's a definite plus. To follow that analogy they're all dead keen that I mate, of course, but if they're waiting for offspring they'll have better luck with a panda with a headache due to to losing his genitals in a freak bamboo-chewing accident. Studies show that having kids puts a serious dent in the "Doing other shit" categories, so it ain't part of the master plan.
A bunch of other food items too, more notable for their location than the food though: some of the best eateries here genuinely look like the previous restaurant exploded and wasn't cleaned up before the new one was built on top of it. Some of the most delicious noodles I've ever had were cooked in a restaurant with the kitchen on the ground floor open to the street - and I don't mean open windows, I mean a distinct lack of wall or even pavement between food preparation areas and car exhausts. The rice noodle place today would need three rounds of cleaning before it'd be certified for waste management in Canada, but man it was gorgeous. I can only wish a place like the meat-skewer stall here would open near the college - I'd camp outside, and the instant it opened I'd start eating and not stop until it was closed for massive food safety violations (about twenty minutes later).
It also appears that I'm stuck with Xin! Yesterday she was off with a friend and I had to order food myself, and while I swear I ordered things we'd had before I got food that the chef should have personally apologised for. And I mean apologised to a war crimes tribunal, or perhaps the earth goddess for defiling her bounty, not just poor bastard me who had to eat it. It seems that if I was ever to leave her it wouldn't just be my main decision making organ that objects, but the gut as well (and if the latter gets any bigger there may be a serious and terrifying change in which organ has the bigger say).
Preparing to battle gut-expansion,