Monday, June 7, 2010

Vietnam through the prism of food

Before I can even get on the airplane, everyone has been asking about the food.  It is the same about Thai food when I fly overseas.  Is the Thai food better?  Well, hell yeah.  What are you thinking? Is it going to be better in the USA than in the country of its origin?  Come on.  Get a grip my lowly hamstrung buddies with families and obligations. I don't expect Vietnamese cuisine to be any different.

There appears to be several approaches to the entire food category here.  In some cases, the Vietnamese cuisine is now having a renaissance of attention.  Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations can't get enough of the cuisine.  This is from his previous series, A Cook's Tour:

On the other hand, you got this weird exotic aspect to SE Asia that shows up with these cooking shows.  Now, I like Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.  If you saw his special on the Gulf Coast, man you will wonder what the heck is the attraction for possum.  On the other hand, if you really think about it, a lobster is a very strange thing to eat, and crawfish are called mudbugs for a reason.  We make it feel better by calling it cajun, creole, or whatever cuisine.  The fact is that a crawfish is a bottom feeder.   It eats dead matter.  But what the heck, I still eat that stuff too.  As I will declare, I'm a horrible Buddhist, which is why I don't call myself a Buddhist.  A real Buddhist is a vegan.  I'm far from that.  Oh, the shame of it all.  

Although food isn't a part of what I am working on, it is something that does lend towards a perception of the cultural norms of a society.  In the old days, it was considered a matter of civility to protest being fed a horrible diet of lobsters and clams.  During the Colonial days, it was really for pigs and animals.  Now, it is high end cuisine.  So when people complain about seeing people eat bugs, I sort of ignore it.  WHAT THE HECK DOES A LOBSTER LOOK LIKE?    It's a bug (you pay more for it so it feels acceptable) for gosh doodly google sake.  Actually, I always looked at it as an overpriced shrimp.    One very ugly thing that I've actually eaten is mantis shrimp in Thailand.  It really was good.  One thing I never got past is horseshoe crab.  It's just too prehistoric for my taste, but my friend loves it.  You eat the eggs, not the rest of it.  The one thing that is strictly off limits is durian.  Can't stand the smell or the taste.  Andrew doesn't like it either.


Personally, I expect to see some darn good food.  In fact, I might put up some food porn in the blog, as Anthony Bourdain calls it.  Pictures of great bowls of pho.  Egg rolls to die for.  (I know that's a fragment but bite me grammarian.)  And the Banh Mi sandwich . . . aaaaahhhh   heaven.  More on food porn, see Bourdain.

I should have been in the culinary arts or culinary anthropology.  Damn.  Too late to change my major now.