Monday, October 6, 2008

Froggy Food in China

When I phoned the well-known Professor, Ji Yuhua, a few days ago, he said, "Ha! Good timing! I was just rereading your article in "Magic Xiamen" about frog pee and frog spit!" ...

"Never try to catch two frogs with one hand." Chinese Proverb

Froggy Food A Chinese friend removed from his kitchen cabinet a plastic baggie of about four ounces of a grayish, stringy dried matter, rather like a finely shredded sponge. “Only 210 RMB,” he said, beaming delightedly. “My brother brought it straight from the mountains!”

This expensive gray stuff was a rare Chinese medicine and cooking ingredient, second in efficacy only to bird’s nests (made from dry swallow spit). It was dry frog spit. Not just any frog spit, mind. It was that of a rare mountain frog, and collected only during a very brief season in the spring.

It seemed that everyone had frogs on the brain. A few days later our Xiamen University MBA Center invited me to lunch with a group of Provincial leaders who were taking my night courses. They complimented me on my lectures, though one confessed he wasn’t sure if I was contributing to China’s modernization or sabotaging it. Halfway through the meal, the waitress set in front of me a shot glass full of a bright, evil looking ruby liquid. It was redder than the inside lining of Dracula’s cape, and shimmered with a life of its own. I suspected it wasn’t V-8 Juice.
“What is this?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s the blood of a rare mountain frog. It is second in potency only to the blood of …”
“No thanks, I’ll pass.”
“But Professor Pan, you’re the guest of honor!”
“I have no honor. You drink it!”
Eventually the rankest person present took the small cup in both hands, ceremonially offered it to each diner, then downed it in one gulp and smacked his lips.
The waitress then handed me a cup of pale yellow liquid. “What’s this?” I demanded. “Frog pee? Second only to—”
“—Of course not,” she said in disgust. “It’s beer.”
Frog blood, beer, cobra venom (I’ve had it).
I wish they’d stick to tea…

Bill Brown

Xiamen University

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