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August 20, 2008

The Culinary Olympics

If you thought reporters at the Beijing Olympics were there simply to cover Michael Phelps, or China's human-rights abuses and pollution problems, you were wrong. There's all kinds of side stories, including biking the streets of Beijing with Olympians, and chronicling the confusion of a cab ride in the Chinese capital. But the most common kind of fluff story is served up with a side of scorpions on a stick.


Courtesy San Francisco Chronicle

Those scorpions are among the more eeked-at foods that Western reporters have sampled in their well-publicized jaunts into Beijing's street food markets. Others include the genitalia of various animals (sheep's penis seems especially popular), centipedes, donkey, horse, and—with apologies to Larry David—dog. Though the Chinese government has attempted to ban the sale of dog meat, it apparently remains available, if the photos in the Daily Mail are any indication.

We can understand why Western readers would be a bit weirded out by some of Beijing's culinary options, as the San Francisco Chronicle makes clear, it's not all penises and crustaceans. However, we can't help but wonder if a Chinese reporter would be equally repulsed by White Castle, Fruit Loops (which, it must be said, bear little, if any, resemblance to actual fruit), and the phrase "nonhydrogenated corn syrup." We suspect they would be confused, at the very least.

As such, it would be nice if reporters could refrain from saying things like ""Put a chopstick in me. I'm done" when referring to authentic Chinese food. And while they're at it, they could stop lamenting all the rice they must eat (brought to you by the man who hunted for General Tso's chicken) when many Asians are having trouble affording it.

Sheep gonads may seem disgusting, but if you really think about it, they're probably no worse than whatever the hell is in a Twinkie.

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