When my wife, Stephanie, first came to America, she commented a couple times about how life here seems different than what she expected. One day we stopped at 7-Eleven and grabbed a few items. When we left, I attempted to steer through traffic with my knee while holding a Big Gulp in one hand and a big donut in the other. Stephanie started laughing and said, “Now this is how I always pictured the American lifestyle.”
I enjoy cooking, but I’m not really that good at it and often don’t have the patience to make something really fancy. Stephanie is a good cook, but when you’re forced to cook every day, it gets to be kind of a drag. The worst part is deciding what to cook. Despite all that, we’ve tried to make a point of ensuring our family eats meals together, preferably home-cooked meals, whenever possible. I think that’s made a big difference in our family’s health and relationships, if for no other reason than it gives us time each day to complain to each other about stuff.
On our recent trip to Taiwan, we had opportunities to slow down and eat some awesome meals in very unusual locations. And not all of those were fancy, sit-down restaurants.
In the northern port city of Keelung 基隆, we stopped at a McDonald’s to buy french fries for Tian Tian, because that always makes him happy. Plus we wanted to use their air conditioner for a few minutes. Just outside the McDonald’s door, we met a young lady selling small pancakes shaped like various sea creatures. She stood out there in the hot weather most every day from morning until evening, making and selling these little cakes. It may not seem like a glamorous career, but she sure came across as happy and cheerful. And it made us happy after we bought a couple bags from her and had fun guessing what the creatures were.
Also in Keelung, we stopped at a noodle house where they made their own noodles. The kitchen stretched out onto the sidewalk, which Tian Tian found very interesting, so he took a picture with the cooks. He’s a picky eater, but he ate his entire bowl of noodles. Consuming noodles that are both temperature hot and spicy hot on a day that is very humid hot, seems a little counterintuitive. My son-in-law Colton made mention of that several times on our trip. But it sure tasted good!
|In the kitchen of the noodle house, which was actually the sidewalk.|
|Icy Fruit Treats in the Miaokou Night Market|
|Fish head dinner!|
I mentioned in another post about our dinner at the Hualien Rainbow Night Market. The vegetables were great, the steak was so-so, but the atmosphere was something we’ll never forget. Night markets are always noisy, with a million different odors competing for attention, and you really feel like you’re not in Kansas anymore. We kind of had to toss aside any preconceptions about restaurant cleanliness standards. But maybe that’s why it all tasted good.
|Steak and vegetable dinner at the Rainbow Night Market|
|Lemonade at Maokong|
|Giant mango ice cream cone|
|The authentic Shaanxi restaurant|
|Shaanxi duck blood soup. Poor ducks.|
|Lunch at the Zhuzihu restaurant with Aunt Olive. Yum!|
A soft breeze blows through the forest around the restaurant, just enough to make it comfortable. The tables surround a small koi pond and overlook the town below. It’s one of the more exotic and beautiful locations I’ve ever been to. A surprising quirk was the music they played—classic western jazz. Sitting there, surrounded by family and the forest, eating great food, while listening to cicadas and jazz, is definitely something I want to do every time I visit Taiwan.
Sometimes, I guess, it’s not really the meal itself that matters.