Last night, as part of the parade of dinners that precedes our departure, Johnny and his girlfriend Batrina (whose name will ever be “Britanica” to my mind) took us out to dinner.
They took us to a Yakiniku place, complete with pit-style Japanese tables and, of course, taking your shoes off for dinner.
Pit-style tables are essentially benches surrounding a table. Or you could consider it to be a table sunken in a hole in the floor, depending on if you want to think you are sitting on a bench or the floor. They don’t allow photos to be taken, but I snuck this shot of Michelle as we entered. The picture turned out awful, but I decided to keep it just to illustrate this entry.
Now, if I understand this arrangement correctly, this style of seating is quite popular in older Japanese homes in colder climates (actually, all of Japan is a colder climate than Taiwan, with Okinawa perhaps coming close to the same climate) because under the table is some form of heating pit. Sitting at the table kept your feet warm and body warm.
No such heating was in place at the Yakiniku restaurant and the cold cement floor and even colder metal poles holding up the table really began to freeze my feet.
Because you cook your own food at the table, on grills and a boiling pot, dinner tends to be a drawn out affair. In fact, you’re given a 2 hour time limit with all the food you can cook. At least, that’s the way Irene explained it to me. Looking at the menu made me think it wasn’t all you could eat, but as we didn’t pay, I never figured it out.
The food was good. I could cook some meat on the grill and give it to other people. It gave me something to do for two hours when normally the Chinese conversation would bore me senseless and it helped my diet. It takes minutes to cook each thin slice of meat (that’s not to mention the lamb chops or chunks of chicken or sirloin, which took longer) and only seconds to eat each single, bite-sized piece. Combine the cooking time, the 12″ round grill and the fact that politeness dictated that I give up 75% of all food I cooked to other people, I got about 28 bites of food.
They were good bites, though.
Also, since you sit there for the whole time (and, in fact, we overran the 2 hours by quite a bit) my feet positively froze solid, right through.
At one point, I got up to use the restroom, partially from necessity but mostly as an excuse to put my shoes on for a couple minutes.
While I was there, I was considering the bathroom fixtures. A mirror had been placed all around the bathroom, presumably so you could watch your own face while you peed, but the simple fact that I’m a giant in this country meant that I was only able to look at my own chest. My eye-line is fully 6 inches higher than the mirror.
Positioned above the mirror are all the little accouterments that go in a modern restroom, deodorizers and such. One of them was the kind that has a timer and every so often depresses the top of an aerosol spray can of deodorizer. it wasn’t directly over the urinal, but was about 8 inches to the side, towards the sink. It was exactly eye level for me.
In a piece of comic timing to brilliant for words, as I turned away and moved towards the sink it blasted me full in the face. Let me refine that: comic, if it happens to someone else. Painful if it happens to you. Luckily I wear glasses and didn’t take the blast full into my eyes.
Afterwards, the family went to the Taipei Milk King next door. This interesting place sells various forms of milk, tainted with other substances, such as Tomato Milk, germinated Rice & Job’ Tears Milk or Japanese Yam Milk. They also have other specialty drinks, such as Houseleak Drink, which I presume is what comes through the roof after a strong rain shower.
When we go home, we packed until 2:00 in the morning, but we still aren’t done. We should be close enough to finish easily before departure.