Mr A. Writinghawk (writinghawk) wrote,
Mr A. Writinghawk

Members' dinner

I'm posting from Kathmandu airport, where my flight has just been announced. My last few days in town have been uneventful, mostly catching up with some old friends and acquaintances.

One evening I go for dinner to what I remember as a very good Chinese restaurant. A group of Chinese men sit at the big round table in the middle of the smallish room with the lazy susan. They nod and smile when I come in, and then, no other staff appearing, one of them comes over to take my order. I assume they are vaguely connected with the restaurant. The menu is a series of pictures of things and one more or less has to guess or take advice. A woman appears and confirms or denies some of his information, and I order some kind of spicy pork.

The man goes back to his companions and they start to receive an endless supply of wonderful-looking but unidentifiable dishes. Halfway through the meal he calls over to ask me how my pork is. 'It's delicious!' I say, 'but tomorrow I want to eat with you and your friends,' pointing at their array of assorted dishes. To my surprise he looks stricken with sudden conscience for some social fault - admixed with humour - and immediately invites me to take the empty seat at their table.

My new companions, it turns out, work in the Nepal office of a Chinese mobile phone company whose name I forget. As they turn the lazy susan - a delicate operation since someone is always helping themself from a nearby bowl - I try one delicious dish after another and they tell me what it is - pork, mutton soup, aubergine or what have you. 'This looks interesting,' I say, extending my chopsticks towards some meat dish. They smile shiftily and laugh in Chinese. 'Take, take,' says my patron. 'We will tell you afterwards what it is.'

The meat is very soft, slightly sweet, mildly flavoured and delicious. They ask what I think it is. 'I expect it's stomach or something,' I say, hoping I sound offhand. No, they tell me, sniggering, it is not stomach. But I am close. 'This is part of a buffalo. The most important part. For a male.' It is imagined to have virtuous effects on the corresponding part of the consumer, they say, which is why so-and-so - each speaker nominating another person at the table - is particularly keen to sample it. I do not think this dish was on the menu provided to me - not that it is easy to be sure - and it might be awkward to ask for it again if I went back alone.

They tell me more about their company - based in Shenzhen, the great factory of China - which though unknown in Europe is big in Asia. Some of them are going home next week for the Spring festival, i.e. the Chinese New Year, and I learn where they are from and what I should see in Sichuan. When the lazy susan comes round again I reach out my chopsticks for another helping of buffalo penis, but it is all gone.
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