23 July 2010

Friday Pub talk: photos and food

Wesley: I know this is a cliche, why do Chinese people take so many pictures when they go out to restaurants?

Henry: It could be cynical to say so, but I think food has become something to brag about for Hongkies nowadays. Since there's Openrice, everybody has started to feel that they should never be late for the "top food". They all flock to the top restaurants on the website and feel good about just being there. And the proof? Photos of course!

Thanks to Openrice, we now came to the point where we consult the site before going into any restaurant. And you can always end up getting into the worst part of the vicious circle; lots of those restaurants simply cannot handle the flock and become really bad very quickly.

Back to the photo thing. A friend once joked that he had been kind of worried that he would puke all over his Macbook for seeing all those food photos in Facebook. At first, I'd like to blame digital photography like everybody else. Film and developing costs are simply non-existent now, so people don't have to think before shooting. But then shooting 200+ photos over a dinner is a bit bizarre...it's an average 1.6 photos every minute for a 2-hour meal. I wonder if they eat at all.

Wesley: I don't think internet food ratings and digital cameras explain this Eastern food photography fetish. After all, we have the internet and digital cameras in the West as well, but we prefer enjoying a meal to documenting it. But I agree that it does seem to be about status on some level. On Lamma, I notice that people don't take pictures of their food at the Chinese restaurants, but take thousands of pictures at any restaurant that has non-Asian food on the menu.

Henry: So we can safely assume it's more about showing off?

Wesley: Yeah, I guess I was hoping for something deeper than that...there does seem to be something highly visual, rather than verbal about the culture here. In the States, people will talk about their restaurant experience the next day, and “show off” that way, but it would be considered too pretentious to take photos at a fancy restaurant, plus you ruin everyone else’s dining experience. It’s just so weird how everything needs to be documented with photographic evidence.

Henry: Talking about eating, Wes, have you had your first chicken foot eaten? If not, I am going to make you eat your first when we have our dim sum lunch. What's the difference between that and the chicken breast anyway?

Wesley: I haven't eaten any feet yet, chicken or otherwise. That's really the one thing I can't bring myself to put in my mouth. What's the difference between feet and breast? Well....let's just say I'd rather put breast in my mouth any day. I guess it's about time I tried it though, let's just hope I don't develop a foot fetish in the process. What's the difference between feet and feathers? Feet and beak?

Henry: Come on, Wes. On the chicken feet, there's at least something we can chew off and digest, namely the skin. We can't possibly chew on feathers and beak. Let alone digesting them. But honestly, I know a lot of locals who can't eat chicken feet as well, and of course other feet. Many of us can handle feet, but some of us certainly can't. And we grow and learn and stop eating certain things. I must have fed many times when I was young and ignorant soft-shell turtles and frogs; but no, I cannot eat them anymore...not a slim chance.

But the question remains, what's wrong with chicken feet? I thought if you can eat something, you should be able to eat all parts of that thing digestible...

Wesley: Even though my appetite disagrees with you, my brain doesn't. This Village can be incredibly wasteful at times, but if you're gonna eat animals, it's definitely most efficient to eat all parts of it that are digestible. This is one area where Westerners, and particularly Americans, are particularly wasteful (just don’t get me started on shark fins). So let's eat some feet. You're buying, right?

(For the record, when Wesley and Henry met for dim sum, Wesley did not try chicken feet, but only because Henry chose not to order them.)

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