Taiwan people's national sport: "Eating Something"

Setting up shop for the feeding frenzy to come. Photo: Outwards magazine, TMU
By Trista di Genova, The Wild ‘Eats’

Today I was reminded again, that more than baseball, more than mahjong, betel-nut chewing or basketball, the nation’s national sport is actually to ‘eat something’.

This was made ever-so-clear today at the International Day food festival at Taipei Medical University. The international students had 20 tables selling food, and EVERYONE SOLD OUT… not a scrap was left!

And if there’s one thing that will tempt a Taiwanese it’s the smell of something ‘hao chi’, (好吃) good to eat. In fact, there’s a joke that is so true even Chinese-y people give it a giggle: ‘Chinese people eat everything with four legs except for the table’ — and chairs, it would obviously follow.

At first they gingerly tiptoed up to my COMIDA LATINA AMERICANA food table. I put out corn for them, partly since Taiwanese people like corn on everything, but it was also something familiar to them — a crowd-pleaser. They have so much food in this ‘country’, but they’ve never seen these staples in American life. Then, they would ask “what is that?” They were very curious indeed — jalapeño? tortillas? avocado? guacamole? salsa? sour cream? cheddar cheese? cilantro? taco seasoning? tabasco sauce? I felt like Marco Polo.

I had to laugh when I left for a minute and came back to see a young Taiwanese xiaojie chatting on the phone, while closely eyeing a spoonful of my sour cream.

To non-North Americans, Mexican food like burritos are still ‘exotic’. This makes it enjoyable to extol the virtues of this tasty stuff, but frustrating for us already-initiated aficionados to actually get some, and with any degree of frequency. Hence the scheme was hatched for my COMIDA LATINA AMERICANA table — with the ulterior motive of finally getting meself a proper burrito.

But sadly, I didn’t get any today. After selling out first, in about an hour, I contented myself with the tidy wad o’ cash in my wallet from the day’s entrepreneurial action, drank a Taiwan pijiu and went home and ate some leftover Thai curry.

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