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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Shrimpin...

Having been part of the planning for the consulate's Fourth of July party this year, I really didn't feel the need to celebrate the actual holiday. Being in Taiwan among the in-laws also played a role in putting a damper on any celebrations of American independence. Instead, my family and I observed the holiday by dining in a local vegetarian restaurant with a friend of the wife who came up from Yunlin County 雲林縣. As most vegetarians in Taiwan opt for that lifestyle out of religious rather than health reasons, many Taiwanese vegetarian restaurants disguise their offerings as meat dishes. The food was delicious, but didn't really conjure up images of softball games and barbeques in the park:


Not long after, we drove off with my brother-in-law and mother-in-law to visit the mausoleum where my father-in-law's ashes were interred.  On the way there, my in-laws stopped to have lunch; as I was already full of ersatz meat, I took a walk across the street. There I captured that iconic Taiwanese image: in Japan, you have the bullet train 新幹線 passing behind a rice field with Mt. Fuji 富士山 in the background; in Taiwan, you have the high-speed train whizzing by a farmhouse made of corrugated metal:


Following lunch, we went to the mausoleum and paid our respects. There was a moment of embarrassment when my daughter turned out to be only one who remembered where on the fourth floor the interred ashes were located:



Filial piety observed, Amber, Pamela and I ventured into downtown Fengyuan 豐原, taking a nostalgic walk down Miaodong 廟東夜市, the district's most famous area, a narrow street filled with food stands:



Outside the Pacific Department Store, Taiwan Beer 台灣啤酒 was promoting its newest product, a honey-flavored brew. My verdict: best to leave the lambic beers to the Belgians, who know what they're doing:


After spending some time in the department store, we met up again with my brother-in-law, who took us to what can best be described as one of the quintessential Taiwanese experiences: shrimp fishing. Basically it means sitting around a murky pool with a fishing rod and some bait, and waiting for the shrimp lying within to bite. I'd always wanted to do this, but my wife would demur whenever I brought up the subject, saying those types of places were filled with gangsters and implying they were dangerous to visit. However, after learning that on a recent trip to Taiwan, Pamela and Amber had paid a visit to a shrimp fishing establishment and had a good time there, I insisted on being let in on the fun. And so I got to experience shrimp fishing for the first time. The clientele were on the rough side, but friendly, and the experience was fun, though after 3+ hours sitting around the pool fishing for captive shrimp, I'm pretty sure I've got it all out of my system:






Amber found a way to beat the heat and humidity of a July day in Taiwan by digging into a bowl of shaved ice:


We all had our moments of triumph when it came to hooking shrimp, although once snagged, I was left with the gruesome task of ripping off the crustaceans' biggest claws before removing the hooks from their mouths and placing them into a basket for safekeeping:




At the end of our allotted three hours, it was time to wash, salt and roast all the shrimp we'd caught - alive the entire time, of course. An experience not for the squeamish:






While our shrimp were slowly roasting to their inevitably horrible deaths, Amber and I took a walk outside. Nearby was an old Japanese-era building that had been converted into a restaurant. We'd eaten there in the past; while the food wasn't spectacular, kudos go out for finding a way to preserve these attractive relics from the past:


Once the shrimp were done, we took them home, stopping at a restaurant specializing in chicken-and-rice dishes to pick up a few items to supplement our dinner. Fishing for shrimp at an indoor pool - it doesn't get any more Taiwanese than this. Pass the betel nut, please:










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