Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sheep's Brains, Anyone?

The Hans wanted to take us out to eat the night before we left. Professor Han has a friend who owns a Mongolian restaurant. When he suggested it, I had a fleeting thought: Oooooh, maybe it's like the Mongolian barbecue restaurants we have in the U.S.!! But really, I knew better than to indulge in such thoughts.

The restaurant was really cool - little authentic Mongolian tents, with boardwalks in between.

And, luckily, the tents are air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. It was a particularly cold night, and my poor kids were freezing in their summer gear - I had packed all of their long pants deeply in their suitcases. The forecast called for very, very warm temperatures in Beijing, so all I had available were summer duds. The Hans were shocked at my lack of good parenting. :) The Chinese we met were always shocked at my parenting skills. To them, you are a bad parent if you don't carry your child on your hip and hand-feed him until he's five or so. Not kidding.

Professor Han's sister wanted to hold Gage, but he would have none of it. He wanted his "Chinese mom," Mrs. Han. It was really cute:

Mrs. Han gave me a going-away gift - a shawl from the Hunan province - she had gone there for a weekend for something or other. I was so touched:

It felt a little "old" for me - although I may be delusional and wear stuff that's too young? I gave it to my mom when I came home, and she loves it. It seems more like something someone her age would wear, for sure.

I really need to get some gifts for the Hans and Summer and Maria. I wanted to get them something really Americaney/Idahoey. I need to get on that.

After we had started eating, some musicians came in and sang to us. This one lady did this interesting, ritualistic song. You had to stand up, sit down, chug your drink, stand up, have her drape a shawl around your neck, and then sit down and chug ANOTHER drink. She was most insistent on making everyone do it, including Micah and the baby:

Here I am, chugging my Coke:

Here's the cello-like instrument that one of the men was playing. It sounded soooo beautiful and reminded me of the soundtracks to movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero:

Our cuisine, as I had predicted, didn't taste anything like the Mongolian food we have in the states. I've also learned that you really need to ask before you eat anything, whether you're eating Chinese food or Mongolian food. Because they use EVERY part of the animal. Organs. Ligaments. Hooves. You name it. I asked what this dish was:

Yeah, it was sheep's brains. I had thought it looked familiar, but couldn't put my finger on it. And then I realized that it looked like the cross-sections of the human brain in the Bodies exhibit I went to last spring. Hahaha!

I pointed to another dish, saying, "Okay, well, what's that??"

"Chicken hearts."

I played it safe with fresh spinach leaves and cucumber stalks. Oh, and they had these things that were balls of dough that are fried and then coated with melted-down sugar. You pick one ball of the fried dough up with your chopsticks (something I never quite mastered), dip it in water to separate the sugarey strings that drape from it to the main dish, and then eat it. I gave lots of that to poor Gage. The noodles were really spicy and difficult for him to eat, and I just wasn't in the mood to give the poor child sheep's brains.

In many restaurants we went to, they would give you all your dishes together and sealed with plastic. You get one chopstick and pop the plastic to open up your packet-o-dishes. It's always a very loud, satisfying popping noise:

There's Mikey - he didn't want to sit by any of his family:

He preferred the professor's son, Ha Han. Ha Han was so doting with him. He even took Micah to the "bathroom," which was an outhouse - an outhouse where you have to crouch. Micah is a trooper about using the bathroom anywhere, but when Dylan had to go, he was so traumatized by the crouching-style outhouse that he REFUSED to go. He held it the entire time.

Oh, and that pitcher you see in the above picture, to the right of Micah, had the most interesting drink in it. It tasted a lot like cream of wheat. From what they told me, it sounds like they boil the wheat in water, add some milk, then use a colander to drain the wheat bits from it. They serve it warm, and it was actually pretty good.

Here is Professor Han before heading outside our tent to have a smoke:

I wonder if Chinese cigarettes aren't as powerful as the ones here, because everyone smoked, just walking along the streets and stuff, but it never bothered me or made my nose itch, like it does here. I know the coke was a lot different over there. Not as stinging as it goes down your throat. And just a different taste.

I realized that night that I hadn't seen one woman smoke. Only men. I asked Professor Han about it. He said, "Oh, no, women don't smoke. Just men. It's improper for a woman to smoke." I thought that was so interesting.

1 comment:

Emily Empey said...

That is so interesting that only men smoke! - i hate the way smoke smells! ick! I also think its adorable that Gage LOVED his Chinese Mom! SO cute!

Also in the first picture -it looks like a ghost! haha was it Gage or micah running?? anyway! LOVE the pics and stories!

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