Saturday, August 16, 2008

"TV reporter food" at the Olympics

We in the food business take note of food reports. Dave Barry shares his observations of Chinese offerings at the Beijing Olympics. More about food at the link, but this part I liked:

The market was bustling with people. But here's the thing. The Chinese people I saw all seemed to be buying things like lamb kebabs and fruit. On the other hand, the people gathered around the centipedes and scorpions on a stick were, in almost every case, tourists or American TV reporters doing fun features on weird Chinese food. These people were basically lining up to eat scorpions. A reporter would hold up a skewer of scorpions, and the camera person would get a close-up shot. Then the reporter would scrunch up his or her face, take a bite of a scorpion, chew, swallow, and declare that it really wasn't that bad. Then, depending on how in-depth the feature was, the reporter might take a bite of seahorse.

I watched as this procedure was repeated with several different TV crews. Then the truth hit me: The Chinese don't eat scorpions. They feed their scorpions to TV reporters. I would not be surprised to learn that the Chinese word for scorpion is "TV reporter food."

I was told in Korea that there were several main types of food: Japanese, American, Chinese and, of course, traditional Korean. Each type was different but all were prepared and presented with a Korean flair. Chinese food was very popular among the Koreans because, I was told, it was "greasy," meaning it featured plenty of deep fat cooking and wok items cooked with plenty of oil. There is a dark-colored sesame oil that seems to be the secret ingredient in Chinese cooking. A few drops added to any stir-fry is all it takes to send up the mouth-watering aroma of Chinese cooking.

Dave Barry may be correct about feeding tourists exotic food. During a year and a half in Korea I only saw toasted grasshopper twice and although GI's like to talk about the Koreans eating dog I never saw or was offered any. Korean friends told me that eating dog was a seasonal custom, normally observed by rural people who believed that during hot weather, typically August, eating dog meat was good for health. There was a joke about the Korean newcomer to America who found cans at the super market labeled "dog food" and bought them to eat, thinking it was canned dog.

Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest differences between Asian and American restaurants is not the food but the service. Customers in Korea were treated like royalty. Meals often ended with a fruit presentation instead of the sugar-heavy desserts Americans expect, typically oranges, pears, apples, strawberries, melon or whatever is in season. I once ordered apples after a meal and it seemed a little long before it arrived. The server apologized for the delay to my Korean host because they didn't have any apples and it took a few minutes longer because someone had to run down the street to get some. How often I have dreamed that my staff had that level of concern for customer service.

1 comment:

vietnamcatfish said...

Good article, hoots. I like the one about the foreigner who bought a can of cherry pie only to find when he opened the container it was full of Crisco. Truth in advertising, eh?

Service: We were at Shoneys many moons ago, and I asked the server for some lemon for my iced tea.

"Sure," she said. "Be right back with some."

Minutes passed and I asked her again for the lemons.

"We ain't got none." In a surly voice at best.

Might be one of the reasons they went belly-up.