August 19th: Shelled Bees

Southern Barbarian Menu

What could be more tempting that menu item 101…

Bees.  I probably won’t order them again.  Honeybees; those treasured pollinators and honey producers appearing on a food menu inevitably pulled the right curiosity strings.  That they came with portions of grasshoppers and bamboo worms was an added bonus.  Pre-shelled, de-striped and similar to small peanuts in appearance, eating them felt very, very wrong.  The grasshoppers were as crunchy as you would probably imagine, their tiny bodies disintegrating the moment they come into contact with teeth.  The worms were pretty much tasteless (although I have to admit trying to just swallow them whole).  Photographic evidence after the meal reveals the preference for bees.

Insect selection

Bees, grasshoppers and worms to accompany your cucumber.

What the hell are we doing!

Insects gone

An empty (insect) plate…

We’re eating bees – and from I understand, actually bee pupae!

Bron eating grasshoppers

Bron goes for yet another grasshopper

Unless someone can point out a mistranslation and they were actually soft, white beans…

Hot Pot

Aprons all round…

Wednesday night with the Brainchild Gang (“Brainchildren”, suggests Heather) took us to a nearby Hot Pot restaurant famous for its customer service, with the staff providing headbands for the ladies, plastic bags for mobile phones and of course great big aprons to protect oneself from the inevitable mess.  Friendly service indeed, with Summer (our waiter) giving us his mobile number to suggest we call ahead directly to check he’s there next time we visit.  The noodle acrobat (not sure what else to call him) softens the noodles by whizzing them around akin to a rhythmic gymnast, as close to your head and the floor as he can get.  Sadly, we had trainee noodle acrobat.  Three attempts later and three broken sets of noodles later, he gave up trying.

Internations, the organisation either acting as a business networking or social blind-dating organisation for ex-pats depending on your perspective, had arranged a get-together at De Refter on Thursday night.  Impossible to resist due to being 1 minute down the road, we had another good night with a good few Belgian beers (but very little food).  There’s either an abundance of Germans in Shanghai or we’re inexplicably drawn toward them; regardless, an entertaining evening with a few German co-drinkers including me feeling compelled to staunchly defend my position on Princess Diana (“Yes, I know it was incredibly sad she died so young, as it is for anyone.  But since I didn’t know her personally, I have no idea why everybody else felt they did”).  I have no recollection of why this topic came up.

Bar Constellation

Craig, me and Rachel prior to Rachel’s absinthe snorting attempt.

As Helke was so keen to point out in her wonderfully German way, I’m not as young as I used to be: “You’re the oldest person I know apart from my parents”, a phrase uttered so seemingly out of the blue we had Rachel almost snorting absinthe up her nose from laughing so much.  This at around 3am on Saturday morning in Bar Constellation, a cocktail bar we’re getting to know a little too well.  A friend of Rachel’s was intrigued enough about the absinthe cocktail to give it a go, and so peer pressure forced (subjective use of the word) me to join in.  This after visits to Dr Wine and Dr Beer earlier in the evening (perfectly named, although as mentioned in a previous post, Dr Beer isn’t a real doctor – he’s a bit plastic).

I can’t interact with young children at the best of the time, and I’m sure they can sense the fear.  Chinese children exacerbate the problem, since language provides an additional barrier.  A co-worker of Rachel’s had brought his 3-year old son along to Dr Beer, who for the most part sat quietly and amused himself.  He quickly discovered a new game – pick up pieces of discarded food and attempt to rub them into the arm of the uncomfortable Brit.  When the Brit can only say things to him in Chinese such as “Would you like a beer?”, and “You do what?” this was obviously an invitation to continue the game until he got bored (which was well beyond my boredom threshold).

2am to bed on Sunday morning wasn’t the early night I’d been hoping for, following our insect-laded meal in Southern Barbarian with Jo, Elouise, Haydn, and Ryan.  Largely down to our ill-fated trip to the Big Bamboo to see Liverpool lose 3-0 to West Brom.

Alcohol artificially keeps me awake – I hit the pillow and drop to sleep like Usain Bolt running a 100m sprint (that’s quickly, not making lightning symbols).  The problem for me isn’t the socialising, which is of course thoroughly enjoyable and stops us missing home; it’s the next-day tiredness which if we’re not careful will mean our exploration of Shanghai happens between 9pm and 4am and not 12 hours the other way.

The continued exploration of the “Gourmet Zone” nearby isn’t helping – since it’s one of those too convenient 2-minute-away sort of places.  Full of restaurants (and bees), we’ve been there three times this week.

You know it’s hot when (an occasional series, parts 1 and 2):

  1. The hot tap in the shower becomes superfluous (and a cold shower is an impossibility)
  2. Toothpaste melts

I have no idea why (an occasional series, part 1):

  1. Toilet rolls in China come individually wrapped

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