Friday, December 4, 2009

What to eat

I was told by a TI sales rep in Korea that I have a "marketing stomach." I actually like kimchi, eel, and tofu. I have eaten octopus so fresh it was still moving (I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me), a fudgesicle made out of red beans (I thought it did not have much chocolate flavor), sea cucumber (squishy and tasteless), and Taiwan's national dish "stinking tofu" (and it tastes pretty much the way it smells.)

What do you do if you are not an adventurous eater? You are going to have problems. If you are staying at an American brand name hotel, there will be American food there but it will probably not be to your liking and will cost a small fortune. They simply do not know how to make American food the same way it is made in America. All the same, if it is a choice between a $12 hamburger that tastes a bit off or sushi, you are probably better off with the hamburger.

Most hotels have a breakfast buffet which will have something you can eat but if your eggs must be dry and your bacon must be crisp, you may have problems. If you can not face eating cucumbers for breakfast or a lunch meat sandwich, then eat rice in Asia and bread in Europe.

I shared a taxi from Chang Kai-shek airport in Taiwan with a guy from Israel. He was terrified because he was a very delicate eater. I invited him to eat dinner with me since it was his first trip to Taipei. We went to a seafood restaurant recommended by the concierge at the Sheraton but when we arrived, the floors were bare concrete and all the fish were in aquariums. We had to select our own and my new Israeli friend was backing out the door with eyes as big as saucers. I decided it was time to hop in a taxi and go across town to Hollywood Underground in the basement of the shopping center next to the Far Eastern Hotel. There, the food is decidedly Euro-American.

On our way out, I picked up a matchbook and handed it to him, "In case you want to return," I said. Four days later, as I was checking out of my hotel, he came up to me to thank me. He'd eaten dinner there every night. You have to do what you have to do.

Personally, after about 10 days in Asia, my system starts to complain. It needs something familiar. Having traveled a lot, I normally keep my eyes open for an American chain restaurant close to the hotel. When home, I normally do not eat under the golden arches, but during a long trip, even Mickey Ds starts to taste pretty good.

And finally, when traveling in Europe, it is easy to gain three or four pounds. The food there is great. In Asia, I expect to lose about five pounds. It is not so much that I do not like Asian food. It is more the fact that they tend to eat less fat in their diet than Americans do. If I am in Asia for two weeks, it is an adjustment to get used to the fat content in American fast food upon my return. Everything tastes like it is coated in Crisco. We should probably be a little concerned about that.

James Snider is an global marketing professional with 15 years experience in the semiconductor and high-tech industry. He is currently working as a consultant while looking for the next great thing and earning inbound marketing certification.