The Magic of the Unexpected

28 Sep

As strange as it may sound, food can be magical. Even though scientifically it is nothing more than chemicals reacting with each other, sometimes things appear amazing all the same. How is this possible?

When people can’t understand how something is possible, they often attribute it to magic. In the case of the “gastronomers” in Tanizaki’s Gourmet Club, they cannot fathom how such ordinary-looking food can taste as it does, such as how the bok choy can seemingly switch from being vegetables to human fingers and back again. It is unbelievable that such a thing could be possible, so they just describe it as magical.

Such a thing has happened to me before. During one of my trips to China, I came across a unique dish that translated into English is roughly “stinky tofu.” It was very stinky, to say the least. If I had to compare it to something, I’d say it smelled like manure, literally. After much goading, I tried it, and to my utter amazement, it actually tasted good! It was shocking to me that something that had such a repulsive odor could have such a savory flavor. I couldn’t think of a way to explain it, and thus could only describe it as a magical food, that could taste good despite smelling bad.

In my opinion, this kind of thing is common with Chinese food, at least from the eyes of the West. They use exotic ingredients, such as gall bladder of snake or lichen. With such strange ingredients, they can still make things that taste unexplainably amazing.

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