Across Continents

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Cafe convenience

Food is plentiful. Small eateries everywhere. And cheap. A substantive main course no more than a few pounds. Often considerably less. I’d normally choose a cafe with a reasonable number of customers. Not crowded. Just enough to get around my inability to read the menu. Obliged to have whatever someone else is having. True, I’ve got people to jot down the characters for my favourite dishes, but the cuisine does vary between the provinces.

Late evening in Juining. Dark. Gentle rain. Glad to be off the road. Finding a small cafe close to my lodgings, I wander in. A couple of young men inside, feverishly devouring large bowls of pasta. A woman appears from the kitchen, seems startled by my presence and quickly disappears. A few moments later the chef emerges. I indicate I’d like the pasta. He nods.

A short while later a fearsomely hot bowl of pasta. Smooth squares, fiendishly difficult to grip with chopsticks. And spicy peppers, burning my palate. My eyes and nose streaming. Strips of meat, unrecognisable but delicious. Curious. Not dog. Told it’s no longer allowed in China. Still a delicacy in South Korea. And survival in the North.


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