EAT: Observing one another

When travelling solo I have become accustom to wearing a clueless expression, confusion is predominantly in the twitchy brow and the oval-shaped mouth formed from constantly muttering “what?” And as with any new place the most simple of tasks first need serious consideration, like making a cup of tea: where’s the cup, the bag, the sugar, the milk? Shit, let there be milk! No spoons though, just plastic knives and straws. I opt for the straw then investigate the eatery court; the special is Hong Kong fish ball soup. I nod in agreement and hope they don’t think I’m an English snob with my cup of tea.

There is a line in the film Starksy and Hutch where they arrest an Asian guy and the gist of the line goes: “I can’t help you, you all look the same to me!” to which Owen Wilson replies, “that’s hilarious you guys all look the same to us!” It really makes me question perspective: what do they see? As I order some Hong Kong soup, the fish looks like (and tastes like) starched tofu with fish flavouring in a delicious creamy liquid drowning in noodles, topped with spring onions. I wonder if the British roast baffles them, too. The array of meats: chicken, lamb or gammon? Why are there two gravies? The selection of sauces – mint or cranberry – is it a dip, a side or a what?

The things I have become so accustom to can be alien to others and it’s always fun to remember that first time you sample any one thing because your reaction is slow and measured and careful.

I take my beige looking soup to a table, along with my tea and straw, and observe the way others consume their meal – head ducked to bowl height, chop sticks poised, shovelling the noodles in with little elegance – this is a sign of enjoyment here. It still looks a little messy though and I revert back to normal height and grab a spoon.

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