Omnivore - Chinese food gets a tongue lashing

David Sedaris piles on the Chinese food haters


Few contemporary essayists provoke the belly laughs that David Sedaris does. But his essay last Friday in the Guardian about his recent visit to China has angered many fans of the nation's culture and food. Entitled "David Sedaris: Chicken toenails, anyone?," the piece is politically incorrect in the extreme...and very funny in parts.

Sedaris makes clear from the start that he has never liked Chinese food whether Americanized or more authentic. But, before actually describing his culinary experience in China, he ruminates in repulsive detail about Beijing citizens' habit of hacking up and spitting phlegm indiscriminately: "I saw wads of phlegm glistening like freshly shucked oysters on staircases and escalators. I saw them frozen into slicks on the sidewalk and oozing down the sides of walls."

If that's not enough, he then discourses on his frequent encounter with stray turds. The point of all this, he writes, is that he can't get the shit and phlegm out of his mind while he eats. After a meal of a freshly killed rooster, including its congealed blood, he writes:

I thought of the sanitation grade, and of the rooster, pecking maggots out of human faeces before being killed. Most of the restaurants in China to me smelled dirty, though what I was smelling was likely some unfamiliar ingredient, and I was allowing the things I'd seen earlier in the day — the spitting and snot blowing, etc — to fill in the blanks.