Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Down at the Ole Turtle Farm in Hangzhou, China

The old cliché about swamp animals tasting like chicken couldn't be more wrong when it comes to Chinese turtle. The turtle leg soup was flavorless and the muddy broth stuck to my gums; the turtle neck salad was 70% bones; the turtle guts and onions tasted uninspired; and the turtle blood liquor was like a less sweet Jagermeister with tiny bits floating around in it.

I hate to seem like that fat weenie Andrew Zimmern on Travel Channel. Granted, I love to eat foods from all over the world, but I don't seek them out simply because they're strange, gross or exotic. I just like good-tasting food first and foremost. The reason I found myself eating the above monstrosity of a meal had nothing to do with shock TV though; I was eating all that turtle mess because the product I sell goes into turtle feed and I prefer more sales to less.

The Chinese believe all sorts of ancient bullshit about health -- sometimes referred to as Eastern "Medicine" by western hippies and yuppie fools. The Chinese still believe much of the "wisdom" derived from a period in time when nothing was known about human nutrition, disease or health -- before science, really. Simply because this knowledge has the cachet of being from a long long time ago, it has a vast following. Therefore, many Chinese think eating turtle will keep their sexual drive and energy up, and will make women's skin youthful.

The turtle farming region is in Hangzhou, an industrial city 110 miles southwest of Shanghai. If you've never been to China, you cannot imagine this level of pollution and industry. I've been to nearly every country in Asia and I'd never seen anything like this. Imagine that region on I-75 right before you get into Detroit or that section of northern New Jersey right before you get into Manhattan -- the sections where you pass a natureless field of industrial smokestacks and the car starts to stink up. Now imagine those smokestack regions stretching for miles and miles: that's the entire highway from Shanghai to Hangzhou, and for all I know, it could extend another 200 miles past Hangzhou.

A sickly yellow haze sits over this entire region. You can barely see the buildings only a half mile in the distance and you can't distinguish the separation between the motionless shapeless clouds and the polluted air-soup that envelops everything below. It was through this industrial endlessness where we stopped at the turtle farm for lunch and meetings.

"Turtle farm" makes it sounds more complicated than reality. We walked down a dirty highway and turned off down a gravel road that looked like I was entering the city dump, then past piles and piles of industrial trash before reaching this turtle-rearing facility. The farm is split into two sections -- outdoor and indoor. The outdoor ponds are massive acre-long concrete tanks holding muddy water and ugly-ass turtles whom nature cursed with heads that look like human penises with tiny pig noses stuck on the tip. The indoor ponds were in giant shacks made of corrugated metal roofs and thick black tarps. The hot stale air hit me as the door was opened, and I shined a flashlight into steamy darkness to see hundreds of tiny dickheads sticking out of the dirty water in concrete tanks.

The farmer reached into one of the writhing dark tanks, and pulled out this snapping beast whose neck stretched like some pornographic cock trying to bite us:

Here it is trying to attack us:

Luckily, I have a strong stomach. I have to in order to do business in China, but damn, after about a week of Chinese food I crave pizza and burgers like crazy.
I love this post. I laughed out loud several times. Please post more often.
I think I wouldn't try The turtle leg soup because it is rather disgusting and too cruel to me! I mean, It is great to know that there are exotic dishes in China, but I prefer to keep on eating what I already know
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