Taiwan dog

Sound like a Grade C movie title? About 10 years ago, I was invited to dinner with some customers within sight of the Straights of Formosa. The place was practically a shack with 6 or 8 Chinese businessmen in various states of inebriation due to heavy consumption of 15 year old single malt scotch. No slouches they.

As usual in a Chinese meal, there were numerous courses, mostly seafood until they brought out some concoction of meat in a brown looking sauce. Years ago I learned never to ask what they are feeding you in most parts of the Far East, but they asked if I had ever tried dog. “Hell no” I said but with some more good scotch, and trying to make a good impression on my customers, I tried it. I’ve tried various forms of rattle snake, pigeon (quite good) and other dishes common to that part of the world, but this was something, top say the least, I would not try again

Don’t let the ambiance discourage you

In my work as a hide broker/trader, I’ve visited many tanneries around the world. Frankly, they all stink of fresh hides and chemicals etc., that is until the dirty hides are washed, and processed into great smelling leather.

One early evening about an hour out of Bangkok Thailand, the small tannery owner we were visiting insisted that we stay for dinner. I protested, thinking of what they might serve, but a customer is a customer, so at the prodding of my sales agent, we agreed to stay. I thought I would just politely nibble and then eat when we got back to the good western style hotel food.

They set up a large round table with me, my Thai agent, the tanner’s family and all the workers. They had fly strips hanging down from a ceiling fan on a hot steamy summer night, right next to some hides that had just been unloaded from an imported container. The tanning drums were turning 50 feet away. They gave us dubiously clean chopsticks and strips of toilet paper to use as napkins

To my amazement, I think it was the best Chinese food I ever had in my life anywhere in the world, and I’ve had many. They were Hookah Chinese living in Thailand for generations.

Elegance in Paris

A prospective customer invited my wife and I to a dinner in the famous Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Aside from also being known for a bevy of prostitutes in the woods bordering the entrance, it also has a beautiful restaurant with glass walls surrounded by early fall foliage. The table was festooned with flowers. It was called Le Chalet des Iles. Our host was not only generous and fascinating to speak with but well versed on the best French food and of course wines of which were brought out with each of the many delicious courses. He was a sophisticated continental Swiss who of course spoke numerous European languages. An evening to remember.

Fabulous wines in the walls of an ancient Roman City

A sales agent invited me amongst a group of people to a famous restaurant within the old Roman walls of Verona, Italy. The walls were filled, from floor to ceiling with wine bottles. The food is secondary. It’s there so that the wine tastes better. Our host ordered numerous bottles of outstanding Old Italian one’s that were decanted into beakers then poured from one to the other to “breathe” the wine. One of the accompanying dishes was probably the best risotto I ever had. I don’t remember the conversation but with the host driving us about 80 miles in an hour back to my hotel, I sobered up quickly.

One of my favorites in the world

Roger la Grenouille, Paris

I have loved frog’s legs since I was about 10. At summer camp, one of the counselors brought in frogs he had caught in the lake and we all had to try them. For whatever reason probably because I thought it was cool, I developed a taste for them. Many a frog are now confined to a wheel chair just so I could have culinary enjoyment.

It’s a far cry from fried legs at a summer camp to the wonderful 80 or so year old restaurant in Paris where French friends would accompany me on every visit. In addition to their specialty, the restaurant has long picnic style tables where everyone gets to know who are sitting around them. Ample bottles of wine help this cause. They also feature discretely presented pornographic deserts to the delight of all. The owner, now long passed, actually looked like a frog! No matter how you felt when you went there eat, you came away happy and wonderfully full.

Wide spot Texas ribs

Speaking of barbeque, it was so many years ago, I barely remember what the taste was but it was some of the greatest ribs I had ever eaten. I was with two other people in the packing house business. We had just visited the plant filled with butchered cattle and of course, sweet smelling hides! It was lunch time and we drove to what was truly an old fashioned country general store.

The only other building in the town, that was truly a wide spot in the road, was a small gas station. In the back was a fat guy hovering over a flaming pit, sweating profusely as he lathered the meat with his famous sauce. They were outstanding. I was young enough to eat two racks. I think the secret was the sweat in the sauce. The town was nameless, and was truly, a wide spot in the road.

It’s the pits. Dinner at home

Many years ago, back in Cedar Rapids Iowa, my Korean sales agent and his wife, on her first trip to the U.S. came to our home for dinner. My wife laid out all of the finery and prepared a delicious dinner. Part of the desert included seeded grapes. My salesman’s wife tried one and then didn’t know what to do with the pits.

She tried to be discreet but I could see she was uncomfortable. Had she had cuffed pants on, perhaps she could have slipped them in there, but she didn’t and she couldn’t. Instead, she turned her head to the side and spit them out on our white shag carpet. My wife and I exchanged a glance, as did two friends we had invited. Nobody said a word, but it was an experience to remember.

Pizza Positano

Having had numerous pizzas in Italy over the years, I typically found them inferior to what we are used to eating in the U.S. On a romantic cruise with my bride to be a few years ago we toured the Amalfi Coast and ended up in Positano at lunch time.

Positano is arguably one of the most picturesque spots in the world. We asked a local where to eat and he pointed us to a spot overlooking the sea and beach that was all open in the front. We ordered the pizza and a few other things, but it was different than any I had ever eaten anyplace. Just mozzarella and sauce and maybe arugula, I don’t remember, but it was not only the best pizza I’ve ever had before or since, it was a perfect time to tell my girl friend, who I had asked to marry me that morning, to tell her again how much I loved her.

Rubber chicken in Mexico

Many years ago when our children were adolescents, we spent several Christmas vacations in Mexico. One year, the peso had been devalued against the dollar so that the hotel became about $30/night and you couldn’t spend $10 for a nice dinner. There were about 12 of us in the opulent hotel dining room. They were known for serving the entre on a gold looking plate with a silver or gold done covering it up.

Then the waiters, in unison, would sing Uno’s dos tries and take off the dome covering the dish. Prior to the meal, I had secured some rubber chickens and persuaded them to put them on everyone’s plate instead of the real food. Needless to say, it brought the desired results.

What a memory!

I don’t have. However, I was at a dinner with the man who had bought my business and who I now worked for. He lived in another part of the country than me and called me in to talk about my future with the Company. I had many issues to discuss with him and was afraid about forgetting what I wanted to talk about. I also wanted to control the conversation to my advantage.

Since I didn’t want to take out notes during the meal I had a brainstorm. Coincidently I had just finished a memory course that worked pretty well. Studying the methodology learned in the course, everything I wanted to discuss came to me in a natural way, and I made my points. Unfortunately, I did not prevail, but I sure impressed myself.