Many people from outside China marvel at what Chinese eat—or, more accurately, what you can order at tourist locations. At Wangfujing’s Snack Street in Beijing, you can order a scorpion skewer. Jim Boyce, Beijing’s leading nightlife blogger, has been tracking media mentions in horror. The truth, of course, is that virtually no one eats scorpion regularly, despite a McClatchy report claiming that Beijing is a place “where donkey and fried scorpions are considered lunch.” That’s from Jim’s latest post on the subject.
The best quote of all is from Dave Barry, who’s been writing from Beijing. (An earlier column I saw was a satirical train of clichés that made me uncomfortable despite the fact that I know he’s a satirical columnist.) Here’s Dave’s take:
The market was bustling with people. But here’s the thing. The Chinese people I saw all seemed to be buying things like lamb kebabs and fruit. On the other hand, the people gathered around the centipedes and scorpions on a stick were, in almost every case, tourists or American TV reporters doing fun features on weird Chinese food. These people were basically lining up to eat scorpions. A reporter would hold up a skewer of scorpions, and the camera person would get a close-up shot. Then the reporter would scrunch up his or her face, take a bite of a scorpion, chew, swallow, and declare that it really wasn’t that bad. Then, depending on how in-depth the feature was, the reporter might take a bite of seahorse.
I watched as this procedure was repeated with several different TV crews. Then the truth hit me: The Chinese don’t eat scorpions. They feed their scorpions to TV reporters. I would not be surprised to learn that the Chinese word for scorpion is “TV reporter food.”
Much more at Boyce.