If you have read Jeff's post about today, you already know I was not having a good day. On top of Tenley's meltdown, I found out that the care package of cold medicine and linkadoos that Mom & Meg sent is delayed in customs, because the Chinese want the contents of the package listed in Chinese and they don't believe that the package is only worth $18 they think it's worth more and I have been requested to re-valuate my package (probably so they can charge me more in customs). I didn't think it was going to get any uglier today....It turns out I was wrong.
This was the dinner from hell. I don't eat cows, pigs, bunnys, deer, turtles, sheep and ducks anyway; and I definately don't eat anything that is still served with it's head on and face in tact. So far on this trip, I have been able to look away from the fish heads and have quickly spun the lazy susan to remove the shrimp that still have legs, heads and eyes away from my view. Tonight, however, there was no escape.
I felt my stomach lurch when the entrance of the restaurant the China Team led us to had an assortment of aquariums containing non-decorative fish and various other containers with muscles, crab, turtles, shrimp, bugs, worms, eels and snakes. Then we climbed up this narrow stairway (not stroller friendly) and were led to the backroom of the restaurant that had 2 tables and one small airconditioner the size of a water cooler. We were packed into the tables like sardines- there was no room for high chairs, and it was already getting hot by the time they brought the drinks. Then Martin came in with the rice wine (which is 56 proof) and we all did a shot. I was no longer worried about my sore throat because whatever was in there was probably just burned out by the jet fuel masquerading as rice wine. Then dinner began. It started innocently enough with barbque'd pork short ribs, beef with egg noodles, fish (head and tail present, but mercifully skinned and chunked up) with vegetables, and this bitter root vegetable that reminds me of some pygmy variety of aparagus. Then it got icky. A large bowl of fried chicken was placed on the table, and the first piece Carol pulled out was the head. It still had a beak. Carol was holding it up in her chopsticks so we could all get pictures when it slipped and landed in her 9 year old daughter Faith's glass of 7-Up. Then we all laughed really hard and Faith and I agreed that finding a chicken head in your drink was not the same joy as finding the prize in the cereal box. Next up was a steaming bamboo basket that they whipped the lid off of to reveal steamed eel which was black, had scales, and was cut into 2 inch long chunks...and of course, the head was present. At that point I put down my chopsticks because the steamed rice I was eating had lost it's taste and I could no longer swallow. The next horror to grace the table was the deep fried water snake. Faith and I started talking about our favourite menu items at McDonalds, since it looked like that was where we would all be going when the dining room freak show was over. It was at this point that poor Chloe put her little fingers into the steaming hot bowl of congee her parents had requested to try to feed her; and as her big sister Canan was already miserable, they made a hasty exit. I contemplated shoving Tenley's hand into the congee so we would have an excuse to leave, but decided the ensuing meltdown would not be worth it. Then the platter of snails arrived. Now I normally like escargot, but it usually comes to me having been removed from it's little spiral shell in this little ceramic dish having been baked in butter and garlic and topped with bread crumbs. These were not escargot, but aquatic snails boiled still in their shells from which they had to be removed forcibly with a toothpick. I wasn't going there, and Jeff had stopped long ago. At this point another dish was set down that had the bizarre white squiggly looking things in it that looked way too simular to the worms I saw in the box down stairs, and I decided it was time to have a really indepth conversation with Faith about what you learn these days in 3rd grade. Fortunately, Melanie chose this moment to have diaper failure and pee all over her father (sending her mother & big brother into fits of laughter); and the rest of us decided to use their departure as our excuse to escape, since we were all hot, sweaty and starving.
Now, as if the disgusting food on the table wasn't enough; I mentioned that there was no room for highchairs, so we were all holding 9-14 month olds while we were trying to eat. Some of the kids are pretty docile, but Tenley's report from the orphanage listed her as "active" and they weren't kidding. Eating with her is a challenge because she's not a kid who's content to sit in her highchair or your lap and play with a spoon, she has places to be and she wants to be entertained! She was less than thrilled about sitting in the corner being hot on Mom & Dad's laps and not being able to take or chopsticks and throw them or crawl around on the floor.
So basically dinner sucked.
We happily escaped from the den of dining despair and trooped to McDonalds for a nice safe high fat and high cholesterol dinner that we recognized, and was free of heads.