You know what they say: you can take the (habesha) out of (ET) but you can’t take the (ET) out of (habesha), which is why in my short time here I’ve learned the Chinese character for “beef”.
I put this knowledge to good use one day as I waited for my chicken burger combo at a local chain. I noticed, to my delight quickly followed by my horror, that this “beef” character was nowhere on this box of hamburgers.
The service in the place was kind of slow, as usual, so I took a slippery plastic seat and got to thinking: if not beef, what’s in it?
It says hamburgers but it also doesn’t say it (??). The only ones who would know what it actually says would be the Chinese. Now, in China, anything with beef is the most expensive item on any menu and the cheapest item after vegetables is always pork…
I snapped a photo while I processed this, then it hit me like a herd of frenzied cows: Is that why they are calling them hamburgers?! Is this box telling the real truth?
A truth that is hidden by so many companies and restaurants who always boast that their hamburgers are made of 100% beef from happyland-raised shiny-coated cows? Why do they lie? Why do all of them lie??
I feel indignant on behalf of the Chinese. At least they tell it to you like it is, in Chinese and in English. (This means that one of the three characters on the box must mean “ham” or “pork”. Will get on that later. If none of them mean either of those words…then the real horror can begin.)
Hamburger. Of course. Hence the absence of the Chinese symbol for “beef” on the package. So honest, so true, so beautiful. That’s China for you, a land of honesty and straightforwardness and fuzzy warm feelings.
By this time, my deep-fried breaded chicken burger combo with fries and coke is ready so I take it away and eat it while watching zombies on The Walking Dead, downloaded illegally from the Internets, surrounded by fellow foreigners slowly entering into a zombie-state from forced starvation for good old American entertainment.
Later that night, I get nasty heartburn. How ironical, I think, as I unseal my box of Alka Seltzers, which I haven’t needed to touch all this time that I’ve been eating local food. (By the way, “rice” and “noodles” are the other characters I recognize.) The one time I buy imitation Western food, bam! Call the fire trucks!
Watching the saviour tablet by moonlight as it fizzes away into nothingness in the not tap water-filled glass, I hear China’s soft smirky whisper, “Silly waiguoren, should’ve had the local hamburger.”