The memory is a bit cloudy as to when I started eating street food, though I was likely in my single-digits upon having my first New York pretzel and hot dog. That’s where things get much clearer- I haven’t eaten either of those from a street cart since…
Memory is a confusing topic. I can’t recall what yesterday’s breakfast was, but the first time I rejected congee for breakfast, easy– in Hong Kong, as SARS was getting the boot, in August 2003. But then in a few years I’ll probably remember both (c/o this blog post), and instead forget the password to log-in. Food, the only priority.
In 2012, I briefly stopped in Chengdu, China. It was my second visit there; the goal of this time, as it was somewhat the first time in 2006, was to try as many dishes as possible that contained eggplant and chilies. It worked out well, but that’s not really a daytime street food combination. Thus, in between rounds of moonlighting as a human flame thrower, street specialties were on the menu. Unintentionally, one of my traditional hours-long walks took me to a neighborhood filled with textile and fabric stores and malls. It was then I had a bit of déjà vu:
The location, the scent and most promisingly the sign, 大胡子 (dàhúzi), big beard lamb skewer king- I’ve eaten there before! How in the constantly changing landscapes and cityscapes of China did this stall manage to remain in that exact neighborhood? Especially as this was a Uyghur (Chinese Muslim group of Turkic descent) vendor, because they are frequently chased away by 执法 (zhífǎ) law enforcement trucks. Though, let’s compare the more contemporary version with the 6.5 year old picture:
Besides the better color resolution and stoic feel of the older shot, the image of big beard himself, named Mansur, is ever-present. These fellas were in fact more welcoming, perchance too welcoming as the guy on the right couldn’t stop staring at my beard. I’m convinced that if I had greeted them with the Muslim greeting “as-salam alaykum,” they would have given me meat kebabs and not gristle kebabs. The same could be said about my meal there years later.
Are you more confident in your short-term or long-term memory? Do you remember your response?