Taiwan 2010 – Part II – Of Eating Habits and Knowing When to Shut up


Our first day in Taiwan passed somewhat uneventfully. We ate, we went to the park, we fought the insidious effects of jet lag – rather unsuccessfully, as, while I managed to stay awake until around 8:00PM local time (5:00AM AZ time) I awoke just before midnight feeling refreshed, wide-awake and hungry. The rest of the night proceeded in similar fits.

Yesterday as a bit better, as we’ve gotten out and about, did some shopping and did a bit of sightseeing.

But that’s not what I’m writing about today. I’m writing about food.

The Taiwanese, at least those I deal with, seem to have no concept of discriminating taste. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but what I mean is that they seem to completely embrace the concept of “eating whatever is set in front of you.” (My mother-in-law excepted, who will eat it, but will make sure you know that she doesn’t like it through nothing more than the magic of her facial expressions.)

My grandfather was the same way. He lived through the Great Depression and he would eat anything put in front of him. I wonder if, at least to some degree, this is true with the Taiwanese. It’s not so long ago that the prosperous island of Taiwan was only prosperous to the few “connected” individuals. The bulk of the island’s inhabitants were much nearer the poverty line than not.

Nonetheless, from Chinese banquets, to street vendors and everything in between, the idea of “special orders” or dietary restrictions seem alien to them. (Of course, they’ll do it, but they look at you like you dropped in from another planet and just asked for a broom for breakfast.)

I still remember clearly when my friend with a deathly egg and poultry allergy came to our wedding in Taiwan, more often than not, when we explained about his condition, they seemed almost to look put upon or not believing. In some cases, they served egg contaminated or poultry food to him anyway. Fortunately, he’s very cautious and avoided serious medical problems.

As a picky eater, I can’t claim a medical excuse, but I still don’t fit in well in this culinary world. You might just think it is picky, but I don’t think so. I just want to enjoy my food. Is that a crime?

Yes, it’s true, If I like pepperoni or sausage pizza, and you like vegetables and another person likes cheese pizza, in my book it is not an acceptable compromise to order a pizza with everything on it. That solution thereby guarantees everyone gets what they don’t want. If that’s picky, then so be it.

But here’s something I simply cannot imagine ever happening back home: Last night, it was apparently too late to go eat, so my bother-in-law was tasked with buying food. His remit was simple: Get food and remember Eugene is a picky eater. (I don’t think they yet realize that my kids are far more picky than I am.)

I didn’t have much hopes, but, when food arrived, mine was excellent, but, and this is the part that makes me write this: look at that picture. They’re hamburgers. Excellent quality, gourmet-style hamburgers – and no two are alike, and no one was consulted on what to order. There’s a cheeseburger, a chicken burger, a bacon cheeseburger with a funny sauce, a jalepeño-laden spicy burger, a mushroom burger and hot wings. Never in my life would I think to walk into a restaurant, order a random assortment of different types of food and bring it home to a group of diverse people and expect anything but chaos as people jockeyed to find the burger they’d like. It seems like the Taiwanese wouldn’t think twice about doing that.


Me? I had the bacon cheeseburger.