5/5/08

Box of Goodies from Taiwan!

I said way back in my first post that one of my exceptions to being vegan is when I have a chance to experience something from another culture. This is the first example of that this year. My friend visited Taiwan and brought back a huge box full of goodies, and none of the packaging is in English so I have no idea if anything in here is remotely vegan. I am assuming there may be some butter and gelatin tucked away in the plethora of luscious goodies. I'm trying a little bit of everything and passing some of it along to friends and coworkers.

While I think Anthony Bourdain goes a little overboard on his blanket characterization of vegans as the enemies of good food (I really love food) and says he couldn't live in a world without veal stock, I kind of see where he's coming from. When I heard him speak a few months ago, he talked about food as a cultural passport. He said when he was in Vietnam the people in the village where he was staying offered him a whole chicken. He knew it was all the meat they could afford in a month, and it was a huge honor to be offered that, and of course he accepted. When you travel, one of the best ways to show people that you respect them and want to learn more is to try the food without reservation or judgment.

While of course my friend who brought me all these goodies isn't going to judge me, a different Taiwanese friend commented on it last night. "It's weird that you like all that stuff. Most people don't like it unless they grew up eating it." I can't imagine what's not to like about flaky, delicious pastries and chewy soft candies, but it was noteworthy to her.

That leads me to believe it's not specifically a vegan or vegetarian issue. People are generally hesitant to open up to new foods, especially when they look totally unfamiliar or have unidentifiable ingredients. Vegans, I think, have a much better reason (whether it's health or animal rights or environment) than others (where it's probably just xenophobia). When it comes to opening up my world a little bit, I try to put all my reservations aside, including those that I find very important in other circumstances.

1 comment:

JM said...

You are in no danger of finding vegan Taiwanese snacks. You're more likely to encounter salted eel chips, shrimp-flavored crackers, or something called pork fu. It's sort of like how when A. gets me a Chinese dessert, and it's like "warm watercress and tofu soup." Dessert, indeed.