Saturday, April 24, 2010

Coming to a Kitchen Near Me

Chef Mike and I were returning home Monday night from a successful haggling-for-pillow-covers plus eating dumplings and Krispy Kreme (yes! we have that!) run, when we spotted this bike cruising down Jiaozhou Lu (the street we live on).

Swill oil. Collected before our very eyes. We watched the bike dude pull up in front of a parking garage and walk in with a plastic bucket and some sort of scraper.

"Should we follow him?" Chef Mike asked.

Yeah, why not. My stomach turned a little bit as we crept in. I pulled out my Canon PowerShot, like we were on to some real Woodward and Bernstein shit.

We sneaked down into the parking garage, and split up to case the rows of cars in opposite directions. A couple minutes later the security attendant showed up behind me and asked what I was doing. Caught, damn. We still hadn't seen where dude had gone with his bucket and his scraper. As the attendant escorted Mike and I out (nicely of course, we're laowai) the guy we'd been stalking showed up behind us with a bucket full of foul-smelling frothy liquid. The security attendant had not come down to collect that guy, just us, apparently his presence was condoned.

Outside I watched bucket man pour his foul brew into one of his black drums. What is this? I asked. He confirmed it was oil. I asked if it would be used for food. He smiled and shook his head, no. I asked what the oil would be used for and my Chinese failed me. I don't know what he said. So then I took his picture.
Who knows where it went. But at least you get the idea. Some food professor who studied this estimated one in ten meals eaten in restaurants in China is made with dirty oil.

The next morning I showed my co-workers these photos and outed myself as a PRC newbie in the doing.

"Oh yeah." They shrugged, as if I'd told them the most mundane story they'd heard all week.

But I know you folks back home will be impressed.

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