Recently, out of boredom more than anything, I agreed to take on a extra job helping train local hotel staff in their English speaking skills to help them get ready for any foreign guests that might come their way. I’ll be earning 1,000 Yuan a day (about $158 USD) which isn’t bad, but the catch is that I will be working on Sundays. It will be six hours every Sunday for the next five Sundays. I’m hoping that I won’t regret my decision to tie up my weekends, and that the spring weather won’t arrive too far before my time there is done!
Anyways, to celebrate my last “free” weekend for a month, Justin and I decided to make a trip to Shanghai. We realized that we would be there for St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that many Americans spend drinking until they can’t drink any more. Justin and I aren’t big on drinking, so we decided to make this weekend about “fooding” instead–eating as much (non-Chinese) food as humanly possible. As I sit here and munch on the last of the foot-long sandwich we brought home from Subway, I’d say our fooding weekend was a success!
Some of the food that we ate:
1. A Papa John’s pepperoni pizza. I’m so happy that even in Shanghai, they include the butter/garlic sauce and the little green peppers that I love. I have been missing bread for awhile, and here I was on bread overload (especially since Justin ordered a side of bread-sticks)! Our dinner was also entertaining since lately, Justin has taken to eavesdropping on the Chinese people around us and then whisper-translating to me what they are saying. Apparently, when our order of bread sticks was ready, the chef handed them to the waitress and said, “Give these to the foreigners!” Chinese people also seem to enjoy commenting on our meal choices amongst themselves (“Oh, look! They ordered the chicken. The foreigners like chicken!”) and debating whether or not to speak to us (“Can you speak any English? I don’t know enough English. What should we say to them? I don’t want to talk to them…why don’t you talk to them? Don’t you have a brother who studied English? Call him on your phone; he’ll know what to say!”) Justin just smirks as he listens to them, and I’m stuck saying, “What? Are they talking about us? Tell me what they said!” My studies in Mandarin have really fallen by the wayside…
Sadly, our poor shrunken stomachs are no longer capable of finishing off a nine-inch pizza like they once were. I insisted that we take the remaining slices with us in a box, even though we would have no place to refrigerate them for the next two days. Leftover pizza doesn’t need to be refrigerated, right? We still have the box sitting out there now on the kitchen table, our leftovers from Saturday. Justin thinks we should just throw it away because it will make us sick if we eat it, but it breaks my heart to throw away something so delicious. Hmm….to eat, or not to eat….
2. Fish and Chips and Shepard’s Pie. What is St. Patrick’s Day without enjoying a little Irish food? When I checked the listings on the Shanghai Expat website for any events going on during the weekend, it appeared that everyone foreigner within a fifty-mile radius was going to be enjoying some live music and green beer at O’Malley’s Pub, so we decided to head over there too. I was a little sad that I couldn’t find any information online about the St. Patrick’s Day parade, held annually by an Irish expat group, the only foreign group based in Shanghai that is permitted by the government to assemble and parade through the streets once a year. Last year it was cancelled because the government feared that the large group of foreigners gathered together would start a riot (which in turn caused the foreigners to riot about their parade being cancelled, which didn’t seem to help matters). I was forced to conclude that the government had possibly banned the St. Patrick’s Day parade again this year since I couldn’t find any information on starting times or parade routes. However, missing the parade made me only that much more intent on enjoying my fooding weekend.
With our Shanghai street map in hand, we set out to find O’Malley’s at about 7:30 PM. I could smell the place before I actually saw it. We rounded a corner and the overwhelming stench of alcohol hit me like a brick wall. We also saw a couple of guys decked out in green bowler hats drunkenly shouting and making a scene in the street. “They’re loud and rowdy…must be Americans!” Justin suggested, as we made our way towards them. As it turned out, we were much too early to see the band play, so we shuffled through the crowd to try to find a table so we could order some food. The crowd at this place was massive–probably the largest gathering of non-Chinese people I’ve seen in the six months that I’ve been here. I found myself feeling strangely shy (and under-dressed!) as I wandered through the sea of blonde girls with sequined green tops and six-inch heels and boys who looked to be straight out of the fraternity house, all swapping impressive stories and amusing anecdotes in English. I was also strangely relieved when Justin found that there were no empty tables and we headed back out onto the Chinese-filled streets of Shanghai. Sure, the whole bar/party scene was never really my niche, which probably added a bit to my social anxiety, but I never expected to feel so strange about being surrounded by foreigners (who I’ll also have to stop calling “foreigners” in just three months time). Apparently I’ve gotten used to being surrounded by Chinese people, all staring at me and treating me like I’m special, and when I go back home I’ll have to get used to being just…normal.
When we left O’Malley’s, we tried a pub called The Blarney Stone, which was much smaller in size, but equally packed with people, and there were also no tables to be found. We finally settled on going to a bar called The Thirsty Camel, which was much less crowded, but still offered some of the Irish delicacies that we were searching for. While we ate dinner, I got to watch my first ever rugby game on a flat screen TV (Scotland vs. Italy), and I decided to root for Italy since my name is “DeAngelis.” A group of Americans involved in the widely advertised St. Patty’s Day pub crawl came staggering in through the door about halfway through our dinner. They made a big scene, slurring their own version of an Irish drinking song and making heads turn. The Scottish guys sitting next to us were not impressed. It was funny for me to finally be able to do some eavesdropping of my own, hearing them say things like, “Look a’ that dodgy li’l blighter!” (I can’t remember what insults they actually used to make fun of the drunk Americans, so I just made up my own Scottish-sounding gibberish to recap for you).
3. We picked up some snacks at an expensive imported-specialty market. We didn’t want the fooding to end when the weekend was over, so we did a little grocery shopping for some food souvenirs. According to our tour book, this market would make us feel like we were back home again, and it really did! Except for the prices. We kept running from item to item across the store, excitedly shouting out, “Look at this! They have Pop-Tarts! They have gouda cheese!” But then our faces would inevitably fall when we would turn the item over to examine the price tag. 56 RMB for a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos–that’s about $8.85 in U.S. Dollars. 75 RMB for what I really had my hopes set on, a box of Cheez-Its–that’s about $11.86 in U.S. Dollars. I had to convince Justin that it was a bad idea to buy any fancy cheese, as we wouldn’t be able to refrigerate it until evening. “Cheese has to be refrigerated?” he asked skeptically. Did he forget about the whole pizza debate we had earlier? We finally settled on looking through the entire store to take an inventory of everything, and then choosing a few special items to place in our cart. We ended up with some rare gems like Dr. Pepper (my favorite soda, which they don’t sell in China) for about $1.60 a can, Classico Alfredo sauce for pasta, salsa (a steal at $2.85!) and Tostitos chips, Keebler chocolate chip cookies, Snyder’s Gourmet Pretzels, two cans of Campbells soup, and the $8 bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. We spent $50 total (don’t judge us!) on our food souvenirs, which was 350 RMB. We’ll see how long these snacks can last. We already finished off the pretzels on Monday!
4. Some spicy quesadillas and a mountain of nachos. We passed by a sign advertising specials on Mexican food and we just couldn’t resist. Our stomachs seemed to have expanded since we took on the pizza the previous day, and we were able to completely demolish everything on our plates! Though the pride in our accomplishment lasted only a few moments, as Justin spent the rest of the day clutching his chest, complaining about heart burn. Some people may experience heartburn just from reading this blog post.
5. Starbucks frappucinos and foot-long Subway subs. We wanted one last food souvenir to take with us on our bus ride, so we settled on Subway sandwiches. “Do subs need to be refrigerated?” Neither of us even bothered to ask; we just went for it. We each got a foot-long so that we would be able to eat half that evening and half of it the following day. I also realized with a shock that I hadn’t indulged in anything sweet the entire weekend, so Justin had us stop inside a Starbucks (conveniently located right next to the Subway) to order some mocha frappucinos–GRANDE sized, not tall. Our sandwiches may have gotten a little mushed during the jam-packed metro ride to the bus station, but they still tasted great when we ate them for dinner later that night.
What did we learn this weekend? Well, much like excessive drinking, excessive fooding can make a person pretty sick. When we arrive back in America in three short months, we’ll have to remember to pace ourselves. I’m feeling a little sick just reflecting back on all of the food we ate. But I also think it was worth it to take a break from Chinese food. After all of our food souvenirs have been eaten, it’s going to be Chinese food from here on out…