A few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone who might be moving to Haiyang and, more specifically, to our lovely expert/expat village. The person had a lot of questions — all good ones and ones I wish I had thought of before making the move myself. Not that I regret moving to middle-of-nowhere China, but maybe if I had thought to ask some of the same questions, I wouldn’t have been so shocked by the realities of life here.
Take, for example, my weekly trip to the grocery store. I’ve never been a fan of grocery shopping no matter where I live, but I can without-a-doubt state that I prefer the sanitized stores of Měiguó over the anything goes mentality of Zhōngguó. The main reason is because, for the most part, I’m a vegetarian. I have many reasons as to why that is, one of which being that the sight of meat, whether raw or cooked, grosses me out. Back home, pushing my cart through the meat aisle was pretty painless. All the different types and cuts of meat were displayed safely behind glass in refrigerated bins. They were packaged in a way that wouldn’t challenge meat-lovers to even make the mental connection between the fury (if not cute) animal on the farm to that big hunk of meat taking up a sizable portion of a plate. I think it’s a different story when you see the (almost) whole carcass of an animal on display, fresh blood still dripping from its lifeless body.
Maybe I’m just too squeamish, as my mother would say. But to her I would say: be proud because I’ve come a long way, as these photos prove. I am now used to the sight of meat, even when it’s out in open, non-refrigerated bins for everyone to look and poke at.*
Seeing all this meat hasn’t convinced me to eat it. For some reason, appetizing isn’t the word that comes to mind when I’m walking by these bins. I hear many countries and cultures whip up some mean dishes involving animal hooves and claws (or so says The Splendid Table’s Lynne Rossetto Kasper), but I’ll just take her word for it.
Some of the expats have no problem buying meat at the local grocery stores. Others do, and prefer to shop for their meat in the more Western-like grocery stores in Qingdao or Yantai. I’m still not sure I would trust buying any type of meat in China. Even Wal-Mart came under fire earlier this year for unknowingly selling fox meat to its customers right here in Shandong Province. And I don’t know about you, but if I thought I was buying donkey meat and it turned out to be fox meat, I’d be ticked.
*Additionally, this article states that 80% of the meat in China is transported to grocery stores in unrefrigerated trucks. This makes me wonder how long the average piece of meat sits out, unrefrigerated before it is purchased, let alone cooked, by consumers?