So I haven't really explained the phenomenon that is eating in China... Tonights dinner was a perfect example and I will try my best to explain it here for you.
To start with we headed up the street that our hotel was on looking for somewhere suitable to have a simple dinner, the other guys (bridesmaids, Nikki and Tony and SAm and Liam ) all vetoed the first place we passed - Hot Pot (see 28Jan entry for details, we had it last night and I quite enjoyed it), and the next option seemed to involve bbq ing meat out on the street and then taking it indoors, no vegetables so again vetoed.
Eventually, Tony rang his cousin and we jumped in taxis to go (around the corner) to a place that is apparently well known for its Chicken (later I found out its actualy Dezhou that is famous for Chicken and each place does it). When we walked in there were some misgivings as every face in the restaurant tured to stare and point at the foreigners (by now a common occurence so I'm pretty used to it). We then walked past a kind of buffet all trying hard not to visibly turn up our noses but there was a common theme of "we're not eating that". Our resident expert, Tony, ordered off the entiely Chinese menu and we all waited and prayed for good food.
So here is were I'll explain the "etiquette" of dining out Chinese style. To start with etiquette is a bit o a loose term. The sign of a good meal is a great ig mess at he end of the night. From the pile of bones on the table, or floor, sunflower/pistachio/pumpkin husks/shells on the floor all are signs that you have enjoyed the meal. Theres also the audible smacking of lips which along with constant sniffing and occasional spitting I am (grudgingly) getting used to.
Once our meal arrived, we all paid 1Yuan (about 20c) so we could have fresh chopsticks rather than used and maybe washed ones. and started to dig in. There were some of favourite dishes, which I knew I'd eat and of course the famous chicken, complete with a few chicken feet. The problem I have with the chicken here is although the flavour is awesome its all cut up a bit like that email that goes around every few years of mice cut to look like chicken, so thats a bit disconcerting. ALso you have to put the whole piece in your mouth then spit out the bones straight on to the table. Its like fighting every part of what you've been taught as table manners to just spit straight to the table, I eventually managed but then your left with like a pile of bones and thre's no denying you just sucked the flesh of a backbone piece. I guess its realistically not really differet to getting a quarter chicken at red Rooster, but at least you can physically pick the flesh you like ad stay away from the bones. Nikki now finds me pieces that don't have many bones so I can still eat it.
Again I was pretty full fairly quickly and got in trouble for not eating enough (who woudl have thought hey :P) I find the flavours to be very robust and maybe the fact that its all "real, good food" (like very little fat and filler" that it fills me up quicker. I am trying to eat a bit more, or at least slower at each meal so it looks like I can eat forever...
This is becoming more important now I'm out in the countryside as the meals seem to get longer each day and more and more dishes keep appearing. You think you've almost made it through as evryone slows down and the dishes are mostly old, and then three or four new hot dishes (the main meal) and bread show up and you have to start all over again.