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HOME - an amazingly beautiful wake up wall to what our planet is facing

HOME - an amazingly beautiful wake up wall to what our planet is facing

Friday, May 15, 2009

Wordsmith Ana: Aboriginal Food

I've mentioned I've been doing some freelance writing of short amusing articles for high school students studying English. Here's a recent one that will introduce you to some very unusual dishes enjoyed by Aboriginal tribes around Taiwan. You can find some pictures and more information by clicking on those links.

** WARNING ** This is NOT for the faint-of-heart-or-stomach, but it is very interesting!!!

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Newcomers to Taiwan have plenty of strange food to sample: stinky tofu, chicken feet, squid on a stick… But leave Taipei, and the world of food will leave an even more bizarre flavor in your mouth.

In small self-sufficient Aboriginal settlements the surrounding environment largely dictated the menu. Thus local species of birds, wild plants and even monkeys became regional delicacies. 

Since aboriginal cuisine evolved without fridges or gas stoves, the cooks had to be creative with their pantries. Traditionally, meat is patiently roasted on a bamboo spit. Game is preserved in salt or millet wine, or smoked. Snared mountain rats have their hair burnt off (with the modern addition of a blowtorch) before being grilled or fried in a wok. These are reportedly huge crowd-pleasers at potlucks.

In Bunan tribes, hunting and cooking comprise important social gatherings. To prove they have grown up into men, young warriors bring down a wild boar with a hunting knife as their only weapon. To cook the beast the whole village turns out and helps with the carving. Nothing is wasted: the innards end up in a delicious soup and boar skin can be served as an iced treat.

Around Taiwan, a number of restaurants with aboriginal menus are doing brisk business. Adventurous diners can order betel nut flower salad, fried hornet larvae and wild dove and deer meat. And don’t worry about promoting hunting – deer and rats are often sourced from specialized farmers.

Some of the dishes have been adapted for a wider appeal. For example, a Paiwan dish made from fermented millet and pork receives a lighter fermentation that’s further masked with a spicy dipping sauce. Yet some true delicacies are still off the menu.  If you want to try raw pickled flying squirrel intestines, you’ll just have to travel to the heart of an aboriginal village and follow your nose!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The One-Year Milestone

Lately time's been moving with the speed of a thief who's been surprised ransacking your family's jewels and is diving for the nearest windows before you can say: "That's my aunt Hettie's pearls, you son of a ...!"

Amazingly, a year has passed since we left Canada for adventures beyond the horizon! We managed to touch down on three continents before settling on this small island nation. It was all a bit spontaneous but now we've found ourselves building a life here as the intended half-year stopover is turning into... well, we're not sure really. Indefinite time-frames and various possibilities are about all that seems guaranteed.

But I must say I'm enjoying the ride. In fact, this is one of my happiest times and scenarios (and there have been many!) Taipei is bustling and spilling over with fun in many-varied incarnations - there is modern theatre, music and film festivals, traditional street markets, temples and meditation, shopping, tea culture, plants plants plants everywhere, abundant yummy flavors, afternoon drum circles, and a vast amount of exploring to do beyond the capital's borders, filled with promises of mountains and hot springs.

I'm happy to be learning - Chinese Mandarin, Buddhist practices and on-the-job training for how to teach children, where everyday it's uncertain who's teaching who. ; ) I certainly have frequent moments when it feels über-frustrating to be a struggling combination of entertainer/baby-sitter/group leader/instructor in front of a mixed-temperament gaggle of pre-teens, but it's true that anything truly fulfilling is challenging in equal proportion and when something really works, it comes with the heady joy of a small miracle. I humbly and gratefully bow low before the thousands of kind strangers who've posted lesson plans, classroom games and grammar worksheets online, as well as all the teachers I've had in the past who must've felt the same mix of elation and disappointment in their knowledge-imparting efforts. In short, I may have found at least part of my calling on this earth and it's a sublime feeling after over a decade of feeling so very directionless. I'm especially loving bringing art into the classroom and during the summer break I'm booked for art and cooking with the little ones!

In the future our sights are still set on roaming around Asia and we've got a long list of countries we'd like to see... India, Nepal, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Japan... But right now we are biding our time, fixing up our bodies at a Chinese medicine clinic, observing the mysteries of the mind through Buddhist teachings and hope to see a lot more of Taiwan in the coming months.

I want to thank everyone we've encountered on our year's journey who's welcomed us into our homes, suggested places to see and shared a great conversation. Thank you so much to our families and friends whose continuing curiousity about our comings and goings makes us feel tingly-warm and loved!

I hope to regale you with more adventures abroad and maybe you can even be part of them - please do come and visit!

Here we are on a trip with our Chinese language school - April 25, 2009