Dear MeiGui: Is it possible to be too handsome?

Originally published in The China Post, 2/14/09



“Three Cup Field Mouse Stew” is pictured here.


 Dear MeiGui;

     My boyfriend, Tony, is from Taiwan; and I really like to eat his special "snacks" when he visits me in New York. 

     Last weekend, Tony set the table for me in my small apartment in the Bronx with some of the weirdest things.  There were fried ants on top of an egg omelette; fried honey bees with peanuts; and fried crickets with a thin sweet potato. I must say they were all yummy.  However, now my boyfriend is suggesting a dish that is too far out even for me.  

     He says the next time I go to visit his family in Tainan -- we are planning on a summer marriage this year -- he will treat me to "sugar-cane-fed farm rat stew.”  I want to say no thanks to this, but don’t know how to refuse politely in Chinese.

     What suggestions can you give me?

 -- Intrepid Foodster, New York


Dear Intrepid Foodster;

     You are adventurous aren’t you?  I do have one question though:  Does he cook this stuff himself or is there actually somewhere in New York where you can buy such dishes? 

     That aside, I am pretty sure that the Chinese etiquette book doesn’t have an entry for polite refusal of food offered by host.  Further, if you were brave enough to eat insects – something I have yet to muster the strength to do – a farm raised rat should be no problem.

     Actually, I have heard that this is a very delicious dish.  The proper name is “Three Cup Field Mouse” (三杯田鼠); and it is not made with the dirty, hideous creatures that you find crawling up from the Taipei City sewer system.  These are field mice that are usually raised specifically for their meat.

     Give it a go!  It will be a great dish to add to your repertoire.  

 -- I would like to find a stew that will give me heartburn immediately, instead of at three o'clock in the morning. John Barrymore, famous American actor 


Dear MeiGui;

     This letter isn’t about me personally I am trying to help out a buddy from work, but not sure how to handle the situation.

     We work at a private school in Kaohsiung County, and this guy’s had problems from the start.  This buddy – let’s call him Rich -- arrived late in the first semester from Canada to replace another teacher who had gone AWAL sometime during October.  Anyway, he’s a pretty buff guy, so as soon as the local girls at our school laid eyes on him, they went wild.  But now his popularity is backfiring.

     Last week, his co-teacher, who’s got it bad, asked him to help her fill out a tourist visa application for a trip she’s planning to Australia.  He was in a rush, and just brushed her off saying: “Probably see you later in the cafeteria.”  Well, she took this as a definite date, and spent the day waiting for him in the cafeteria.  When he didn’t show, she went crying to her co-workers; and now they’ve all got it out for him.

     “Rich-mania” has turned into a “Rich-pogrom.”  How do I save my friend?

-- Arbitrator, Kaohsiung

 Dear Arbitrator;

     Hide the pitch forks and sticks.  Something obviously got lost in translation.

 -- Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about. – Benjamin Lee Whorf, American Linguist