Today I went to Chinatown in San Francisco for the first time! I had anticipated this trip all week long and I never would have been prepared for what I had in store. As my American mind has been trained to block out the idea of where food comes from, the Chinatown residents do not leave anything up to the imagination.
Frank, our tour guide shared his plethora of insight on the city he grew up in. As we walked along the streets of Chinatown there were a few restaurants with carcasses of cooked -ducks, head in-tacked. The duck was being hung by the neck with a metal hook, as its body dripped of the various greases and marinades that lathered the dead flesh. Seeing the face of the creature I could potentially be eating that day was only the first part of the torturous reality check.
After a few other sights we made our way to the market. A crowded scene of fresh produce, only a day or two off the root, lined the west sidewalk. The misshapen fruits and veggies appeared toxic compared to the industrially processed foods I was used to seeing in safeway.
After venturing down a block we crossed the street to view the east sidewalk. The first shop simply had pounds of meat that took on colors I did not recognize for meat, such as a black shade of duck. It was a deceiving introduction for what was next to come. Just a few steps ahead reality set in.
The meat suppliers were all much like that of the restaurants serving duck. The bodies of dead animals hung on the window in order to show its costumers their fresh available options. According to Frank, the reason they showed the bodies of the meats was for two reasons: to show the freshness of the product and because the Chinese do not waste anything, they will use every last part of the body they can.
The freshness of the products went beyond displaying the entire body. We passed tubs of fish, shrimp, turtles, and frogs as they swam and took their last few breathes before being chosen as a dish for someone’s evening meal.
I could not imagine seeing the food you were able to kill, butcher, and eat as a living creature. Now I knew why my friend Linsey is a vegetarian. There were certainly a few moments there that I had considered changing my life choices of a meat-eater as I watched the bodies of living beings be tortured. But then I came back to my senses as the sweet aroma of the cooked meats overtook my feelings of guilt and remorse for these creatures.