Thank you, Mr. Chen

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I didn’t know I would have the honor of meeting Mr. Chen, purveyor of the ShiDong Beef House, yesterday. In fact, I think I surprised him when I began asking questions about the meat in his chiller and the cowbell hanging from the ceiling at the ShiDong Market. But once he got started, he was on fire.

We wandered around the fresh food market, located (appropriately) in the ShiDong neighborhood, on ShiDong Road, as an introduction to how many Taiwanese housewives buy food–locally, daily and fresh. My wonderful host (and the planner/facilitator of my schedule here in Taiwan) Ms. Sandia Lee, of the Eisenhower Fellows Association in the Republic of China, took us there. She didn’t expect to get into a lively conversation about beef, either.

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Mountains of fresh veggies and fruits at the ShiDong Market.

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Sorry, Jo Peep. Don’t think I could fit this one into my suitcase for you. Did Mr. Chen display this as a conversation piece, or do some people have a gigantic soup pot?

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Just pulled from the tank, and ready for your dinner table! Thanks for posing for an over-enthusiastic tourist, fish guy!!

But, as we wandered through the fresh veggies, live fish tanks and live pens of chickens (I promise I didn’t touch any chickens, mom. And I held my breath as we walked by), we came across a fresh beef case. And there I found Mr. Chen, and the beef checkoff logo, plain as day, on a package of what was obviously sliced, prime beef.

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There’s the beef check, right beside “We LOVE U.S. Beef.” And Mr. Chen loved U.S. beef, indeed! Even though he most definitely didn’t love the price.

So, I asked him, “Excuse me, sir, where did you get that U.S. beef?”

And we were off to the races.

He talked for about five minutes straight, while Sandia valiantly tried to wait for him to breathe, so she could translate. I leaned over to her and whispered, “I’m dying to know what he is saying!” She grinned.

This went on for quite a while. Mr. Chen had a lot to say. And I loved every minute.

He talked about the consistent quality of U.S. beef, especially when compared to our competitors (can you guess who our competitors are, dear readers? If you’ve been following along, you know them from our previous posts). He talked about U.S. quality grade, availability, price (oh yes, he talked a LOT about price). He talked about how U.S.beef is so good, restaurants will mix U.S. beef fat trimming with Australian lean, to make it taste better (What a great idea! Hey, McDonald’s, have you ever thought of that?!). He talked about how that wasn’t fair, because he couldn’t do that in his shop! And…finally..he talked about beta agonists.

Sandia looked slightly distressed at his words, and looked up the translation of beta agonists on her smart phone. I nodded and smiled. “No worries. I wondered when he would get to that,” I told her.

Turns out, he was grateful that the our governments worked through establishment of an MRL (although he didn’t call it that) and he hoped that the supply would be better. And, he added once more for emphasis, the price would come down!

Thank you, Mr. Chen for making my first day studying beef in Taiwan interesting and lively. Thank you for your honesty, your patience and for your passion about beef–U.S. beef, of course.

From the ShiDong market, we moved to the Night Market, where you can buy anything. I mean it, the huge market sells everything–from shoes to underwear to all manner of meat on sticks, dumplings, soup, fried chicken, fresh fruit cups, Polish cake, and lots of other foods I didn’t recognize. We perused what seemed like hundreds of food stalls, and made our selections from supper. Unfortunately, I didn’t get many photos, mainly because it was too dark, but also because there were so many people, I couldn’t get my camera out of my pocket. Just kidding, but there were a LOT of people there! And on the train back to the hotel!

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At the market: Homemade rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves. I had one for lunch at the Palace Museum Tea Room. Excellent!

A Plug for the National Palace Museum

Ru pottery

Priceless Ru Ware in the shape of a lotus flower. The Ru kiln produced glazed pottery for a short period during the years when Northern Song emperors Zhezong (1085–1110) and Huizong (1110–1125) ruled. No more than 60 intact pieces from the kiln were known before the discovery in 1986 of the original kiln site, which is in the village of Qingliangsi, in Baofeng county, Henan province. This site has yielded at least 37 more examples (22 of which are intact).

The overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1911 set the stage for the formal establishment of the Republic of China in the following year. Based on the principles of democracy, the possessions acquired by the imperial family went public to be shared by all. This set the stage for the establishment of the National Palace Museum, located inside the Forbidden City in Taipei. The museum itself has a rich history, too detailed to copy here, which I encourage you to research a bit if you have time. A knowledgeable tour guide arranged by EF Fellows Association brought the museum to life for us, as we wandered among the roughly 2,000 pieces the museum has room to display, out of more than 690,000 pieces in total. We spent about two hours on the tour, and had to move along to other locations, but if you visit here, please leave at least a day to look at the treasures here. From the Bronze Age to recent history, the collection will amaze you. We saw an 8,000-year-old necklace, priceless delft blue Ru Ware, Ming ceramics and so much more.

Random photos of the day:

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My first beef noodle in Taiwan (hopefully not my last!). Just the right amount of spice, with tender, succulent pieces of slow-cooked beef.

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Serenaded at lunch with lovely music.

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We had supper at the Night Market. Frog eggs?? Wow! (Not really, silly, it was milk tea instead!)

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Random chicken parts, anyone?

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Waterfall outside the Taiwan Folk Art Museum in Beitou. Built in 1921, the Museum was originally the “Jia Shan Hotel,” a hot spring hotel built in the Japanese occupation era. The two-story main building and its annex, Tao-Ran House, with a total floor area of around 2,500 square meters, stand in a quiet spot in Beitou, surrounding by a garden of lush green. It is one of the largest freestanding Japanese all-wood houses in Taiwan. In 1998, the well preserved buildings were designated a historic site by Taipei City Government. Starting in 2002, restoration work began. The makeover took five years and the buildings were eventually reopened in early 2008.

 

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