Tue, Jul 05, 2011 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Thrown into the frying pan

In regards to an article that recently appeared in your newspaper about an American blogger — and as the actual blogger mentioned in the article — I would like to add my two cents about the backstory (“American blogger on CNN sparks ‘pi dan’ brouhaha,” July 1, page 4).

I need to explain that I originally posted my CNN iReport video about trying to eat a pi dan in April, after CNN asked readers to send in video stories about the most revolting foods they had ever eaten anywhere in the world. Since I had just tried to eat “century eggs” that I had purchased at a local Asian supermarket here in Texas, I sent in a brief iReport on the subject.

Fast forward to this month and I can report that my blog has received more traffic than ever. However, people in Taiwan should know that CNN, on its own initiative, added my April iReport to a special section about the world’s most disgusting foods and my report about century eggs was the first one on the list. It is important to note that I never once mentioned “Taiwan” in my video report, nor did I ever criticize Taiwanese foods or Taiwanese. In fact, my godmother who lives in California is Taiwanese.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw the Taipei Times article online, translated from the Liberty Times, calling me all sorts of names, with one Taiwanese food blogger calling me “ridiculous,” and a Democratic Progressive Party politician even going so far as to say that “Americans are chicken-hearted” and apparently lumping me into that bracket.

I also received many angry e-mails and comments from people calling Americans “fat xenophobes with terrible dietary habits.”

And that was one of the nicer comments.

So I want to apologize to the people of Taiwan if my video caused a brouhaha. That was never my intention. Although I did not enjoy the pi dan, I meant no disrespect to Taiwanese or their culture. If you knew me, you would know that I like to eat traditional Chinese and Taiwanese food very much and it is one of my dreams to visit Taiwan someday and see — and taste — your country’s culinary delights.

The response last week to my CNN video was like riding a roller coaster. I went from the initial excitement of having my blog mentioned on CNN to the experience of being vilified on international discussion boards, denounced by a Taiwanese legislator and receiving e-mails calling me “an ignorant racist” and worse.

All I was trying to do with my pi dan story was to present something that I felt was fun. To those critics in Taiwan who got so angry at me for not being able to stomach century eggs from my kitchen in Texas, I hope they can gain some perspective now. It is not like I committed an act of violence. My sin was trying some strange-tasting eggs and not enjoying them.

Okay, maybe I did not eat pi dan the correct way. Taiwanese food critic Tao Li-jun (陶禮君) said I probably had eaten the century egg without any condiments. Guilty as charged. Had I known what I know now, thanks to Tao, I would have prepared the pi dan with diced scallion, sesame oil or soy sauce. And to Taiwanese gastronomist Fei Chi (費奇), maybe she is right that the reason I did not enjoy my first experience with a century egg from an Asian supermarket was because I did not know how to appreciate its taste.

Now I know better and if I get a chance to visit Taiwan in the future, I will look forward to sampling some real pi dan dishes prepared by real Taiwanese chefs.

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